The Recording Academy recently announced that gospel recording artist George Beverly Shea, a longtime Billy Graham Crusade soloist, will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award during the 2011 Grammy Week in February.
The Grammy Award winner mirthfully told The Christian Post, "I was surprised at this recognition and so grateful at my age 102. It almost broke me up."
Shea is among one of the oldest living persons to be honored at the Grammy's. He reflected on his 80 years in the music industry and how being a gospel singer was not his original plan for life.
He shared, "Sometimes I don't know how to go about this because I never planned to be a gospel singer. But Mr. Graham when he got into this type of work in 1947 – I met him in '43 but he began his work in '47 – he asked if I could go along and sing a quiet hymn or gospel song just before he would speak."
The 101-year-old, soon to be 102 on Feb. 1, reminisced about his early years before he started co-working with Graham.
He said, "I was a radio announcer in Chicago in 1943. They gave me a program to sing. I called the program 'Hymns from the Chapel' and he [Billy Graham] was nearby Wheaton College and he offered to come in one day to my studio. He was 21 [and] I was 31 and that's the same ten-year difference today."
Following his nomination, his long time friend, who lives about a mile from him, called him to congratulate him.
"I've been with him 63 years; he lives one mile away from me. I see him quite often."
Shea holds the Guinness World Record for singing in person to the most people ever. He recalled, "You know, I got in the Guinness Book of Records saying that I sung in person to 210 million people. But I just have to say that they didn't come to hear me, they came to see Billy Graham."
The "America's Beloved Gospel Singer" has recorded more than 70 albums of hymns. Recently, he joined Billy Graham and Cliff Barrows for the 60th anniversary celebration of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
The 2011 Special Merit Award will also honor Julie Andrews, Roy Haynes, the Juilliard String Quartet, the Kingston Trio, Dolly Parton, and the Ramones. The vote was determined by The Recording Academy's National Board of Trustees. Recipients of the award will be honored at a special invitation-only ceremony during Grammy Week on Feb. 12, 2011. A formal acknowledgement will be made during the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards telecast on Feb. 13.