Carter’s obituary in The Daily Telegraph includes these revealing details:
The number’s success stems from two elements. It has a lively, catchy tune, adapted from an air of the American Shaker movement. But the optimistic lines “I danced in the morning when the world begun/ and I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun” also contain a hint of paganism which, mixed with Christianity, makes it attractive to those of ambiguous religious beliefs or none at all.
Carter himself genially admitted that he had been partly inspired by the statue of Shiva which sat on his desk; and, whenever he was asked to resolve the contradiction, he would declare that he had never tried to do so.
However, he admitted to being as astonished as anyone by its success. “I did not think the churches would like it at all. I thought many people would find it pretty far flown, probably heretical and anyway dubiously Christian. But in fact people did sing it and, unknown to me, it touched a chord. . .
“Anyway,” Carter would continue, “it’s the sort of Christianity I believe in.”
With considerable chagrin, I remember years from the early 1970s when “Lord of the Dance” was one of the greatest hits of Faith Alive, a laity-led renewal movement in the Episcopal Church. The news of Carter’s death does raise an essential question essential for worshipers: What hymns, whether classic or contemporary, would you prefer never to sing again in this life? (The question mercifully assumes that Heaven will show more wisdom in its choice of music.)
Here are my own nominations, in an effort to prime the comments pump (exercise caution: links lead to sound samples):
Send in your nominations — all faiths are welcome, of course — and if you really love us, include links.