If you are of a certain age, the musical group Hanson is likely one you know well. While some in the pop-rock world considered them just another “boy band” (Entertainment Weekly compared them, albeit affectionately, to “a slacker Partridge Family”), the long-haired, free-spirited Hanson brothers—Isaac, Taylor, and Zac—are talented and serious musicians.
Their first studio album, “Middle of Nowhere,” produced multiple hit songs, two Grammy nominations, and critical reviews. Taylor Hanson, the middle brother and keyboardist, went on to form the band Tinted Windows with James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins and Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick, while continuing to produce new albums with his brothers. Hanson has been an active band for the past 25 years, with an incredibly loyal fan base worldwide (shows for their upcoming tour are already sold out in many cities).
The Hanson Brothers’ Christian Faith
Isaac, Taylor, and Zac are the three eldest of seven homeschooled children raised in an evangelical Christian family in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Over the past two decades they’ve spent in the public eye, the Hanson brothers have never discussed their faith in interviews, noting that the designation “Christian artist” might erect barriers between them and potential fans. But their wholesome reputation, numerous musical Scriptural allusions, and religious themes make it fairly evident that the brothers have strong spiritual roots.
The immediate association anyone who’s heard of Hanson makes is “MMMBop”—the incredibly-catchy-yet-incredibly-annoying song that hit #1 on the Billboard100 list during the summer of 1997, where it stayed for weeks on end. Once you heard “MMMBop,” you simply couldn’t get it out of your head. The song was so relentlessly overplayed, Saturday Night Live created a skit about the phenomenon, in which Helen Hunt and Will Ferrell kidnapped the Hanson brothers and tortured them by forcing them to listen to “MMMBop” on an endless loop.
It’s now been 20 years since Hanson’s debut studio album was released and to mark the occasion, the band is releasing “Middle of Everywhere,” a “greatest hits” compilation of their best-known tunes. But there’s a new song on “Middle of Everywhere,” and it carries with it the potential to be even more influential than “MMMBop.” “I Was Born” is, in the words of NPR’s music critic Stephen Thompson, “fantastic… a life affirming top-down anthem that’s virtually impossible to resist.”
What ‘I Was Born’ Achieves
The Hanson brothers are all now married (note to any of you 20-somethings who had a Zac Hanson poster on your bedroom wall: it’s time to move on). Eschewing New York City and Los Angeles for the privacy and serenity of their home in Oklahoma, it’s evident that they love family—and they didn’t shy away from making room for children in their marriages, as People Magazine notes. Indeed, between the three brothers, there are now 12 little Hansons, and the band featured 11 of them in their “I Was Born” video, giving us a glimpse into their usually guarded family life.
The song begins:
“I was born to do something
No one’s ever done, no one’s ever done before
I was born to go somewhere
No one’s ever gone, no one’s ever gone before”
Life-affirming indeed. “I Was Born” reminds each of us that our lives have meaning and a purpose—and a specific destiny that only we can fulfill. Your God-given purpose in life can’t be achieved by someone else. This isn’t not a new concept. In fact, reading through the lyrics of “I Was Born” is strongly reminiscent of a meditation written in 1848 by English theologian and Catholic Cardinal John Henry Newman. In his reflection, often titled “Some Definite Service,” Newman lays out a similar theme on the individual mission and specific purpose given to each of us: “God has created me to do Him some definite service,” he wrote. “He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission.”
Hanson presents Newman’s thoughts in a fresh and yes, catchy, way. And in a modern musical world filled with lyrics that degrade, shock, and diminish others, “I Was Born” is an inspiring antidote, one worth listening to on an endless loop. It’s a message I hope that my own children won’t be able to get out of their heads when they hear it:
“I was born to do
I was born to go
I was born to be
We can only hope that “I Was Born” sees the relentless overplay of “MMMBop” and more. But be forewarned: You won’t be able to stop singing it.
Mary Hallan FioRito is an attorney and the Cardinal Francis George Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.