Born April 12, 1940 in Goose Creek, Texas, John Hagee is a charismatic man of many interests and talents.
As a young man, he was a National Honor Society member and a four-sport letterman who had a commission to West Point and aspired to a military career. However, as God’s plans are often different from ours, that changed when he gave his life to the Lord at the age of 17, was called to the ministry and became a fifth-generation pastor. John Hagee is now known worldwide as the founder and pastor of San Antonio’s 20,000 member Cornerstone Church, in addition to John Hagee Ministries, Global Evangelism Television and Christians United for Israel, the nation’s largest pro-Israel organization. Hagee has made multiple appearances on the New York Times bestseller list, and to date has authored more than 30 books, with several appearing on the New York Times Bestseller list.
But before all the accomplishments and indeed, before he even made the decision to follow Christ, God planted in John’s heart a love for one of His wonderful gifts—music. Singing and playing music were as natural as breathing in the Hagee household, and young “Johnny” played saxophone and Hawaiian guitar in musical programs at his father’s small Assemblies of God church. His mother Vada played piano, organ and accordion, while his older brother Bill played standup bass, and his father Bythel added to the mix with acoustic guitar.
The family had no television and could instead be found around the piano or on the porch in the evenings, harmonizing together on favorite songs. John remembers that “People would gather on our front porch and listen to the music until we were too tired to play or sing another note. No matter how long we sang, the last thing we would hear from the porch was, ‘Will you sing just one more song?’”
The radio also fed their love for music, and young John especially enjoyed Guy Lombardo and the jazz orchestra from Preservation Hall in New Orleans. He recalls listening to their musical “licks” and replicating them on his saxophone. He’d slip the newly-learned tricks in during church services and fondly recalls, “Mother didn’t mind, as long as you stayed in tune and on beat.” Southern Gospel resonated with the budding musician and future pastor as well. “To me, this style of music has traditionally shown no compromise to the truth of the gospel. Its lyrics are frank, yet encouraging and very inspirational.”
In 1952, Bythel was called into evangelism and the Hagees took their act on the road, climbing into a Spartan mobile home and now officially performing as the Hagee Family Singers.
Moving forward a few decades, the tradition continues with John and Diana Hagee’s children Christina, Matthew and Sandy, whose public debut happened onstage at Cornerstone Church over twenty years ago. The group, now known as the Hagees, has performed all over the United States, as well as Israel and Canada, and has released a number of albums. In 2011, John recorded a solo vocal and saxophone album titled Lifetime of Music, with special guests the Oak Ridge Boys and gospel legend Bill Gaither. This project garnered two GMA Dove nominations for Southern Gospel Recorded Album of the Year and Southern Gospel Recorded Song of the Year (for “Victory in Jesus”).
John says that after preaching and singing for over 50 years, his “voice is not what it once was but the sacred sounds of the sax are as pure as ever.” Indeed, John Hagee’s passion for the gospel and love for music has not diminished over time, and he takes pleasure in knowing that the beautiful strains of God’s music will continue to be heard in his family for generations to come.