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In the following days, young people roam the town's streets belting out the song, recounts theologian and journalist Burkhard Weitz: "A short while later, the Reformation was introduced in Schweinfurth." For the past 500 years, Martin Luther (1483-1546) has been known as an eloquent author of theological writings.But he is far less known as a songwriter and musician, although he not only played a key role as a reformer of the Christian faith, but also initiated a new chapter of spiritual music."The guy was totally uninhibited," commented Falk, adding, "Considering 'From Heaven Above to Earth I Come' and the similarly constructed 'A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,' I come to the conclusion that, like many modern musicians, Martin Luther also used to steal from his own repertoire.These songs are hits." Dieter Falk knows how to identify a hit.Besides developing his reformatory thoughts and putting them in writing, he had to deal with tough disputes with the pope and the clergy, as well as the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and a Church ban against him. That changed in 1523, when he composed his first song.It was full of defiance, says Burkhard Weitz: "When the first martyrs who followed his teachings were burned in Brussels, the reformer was shocked and horrified.
The structure of Luther's verses was quite simple, differing from the structure of modern pop songs with a verse, a refrain, and a bridge. Once in a while, there was also a refrain, like in folk songs." Read more: Luther 2017 in Germany Catchy melodies and verses that were easy to memorize were an ideal combination in a time when most people were able to read neither texts nor music.
"The big advantage of these songs was that they provided two different ways of memorizing them — by the rhythm and rhyme of the verses, or by the melody," explained Burkhard Weitz.
From memory to the printing press But memorizing alone wasn't enough.
Schweinfurt, Germany in 1532: A Catholic congregation would like to join the Reformation, but the priest opposes the move.
So, one Sunday, the churchgoers start singing a song written by church reformer Martin Luther, namely "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." The congregation wins and the priest flees.
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The first collection of reformist songs was published in late 1523, namely the "Achtlieder Buch," a collection of eight songs of which four were composed by Luther.