“It has gone far beyond my wildest dreams,” says Harvill. “I have been blessed to visit many foreign countries and have heard it performed in several languages. It is truly a gift from God. I feel like the proverbial lizard in the king’s palace. It has opened many otherwise closed doors for me. Through this song, God gave Gary and me an opportunity to begin our careers and to go on to write many more songs of worship, but no matter how many others I write, I will always be recognized as the co-writer of ‘Ancient of Days.’”
Harvill and Sadler brought their families together in the spring and summer of 1991, converging at Harvill’s small rental house in Mobile, Alabama. With four children and four adults crammed into a two-bedroom, 1-bathroom house, the two songwriters were somehow able to write together in a small bedroom Harvill had converted into a studio.
“Our inspiration was Daniel 7:22,” Harvill explains. “Daniel’s vision includes the ‘Ancient of Days,’ and that His kingdom shall not pass away. We loved the heavenly, worshipful imagery.”
Sadler had already come up with the song’s title and a basic verse melody. Harvill had been listening at the time to a South African writer and performer named Johnny Klegg, and had begun to imitate some of Klegg’s ethnic drum patterns just for fun. Some of those same sounds became the direction the two writers took when they began to put together the pieces of “Ancient of Days.” Harvill credits worship pioneer and friend Gerrit Gustafson for championing the song and ultimately pitching it to Integrity Music.
“Gary and I had never had a song recorded on a national label before,” Harvill shares. “When it made the list for Ron Kenoly’s Lift Him Up album, we were ecstatic. When we realized that it would include a bass, flute and percussion solo, making the song last more than seven minutes, we knew that God was up to something big!”
Harvill, who wrote his first poems as a child, crafted his very first song, “Albatross,” when he was 13 years old. Growing up in Southern California, he claims he wasn’t great at sports, but learned early on through church plays and school choruses that he was interested in music. Playing guitar, singing and writing songs became second nature to him.
After Harvill and Sadler completed “Ancient of Days” in the spring/summer of 1991, Kenoly’s live recording was scheduled to take place in Virginia Beach that October. Harvill brought his parents and family along with him to the event, and remembers the night vividly.
“When the song was being performed, I remember looking over at my mother, who has since passed away, and seeing the look of wonder in her eyes,” says Harvill. “I knew at that moment my folks realized that all of the loud garage band practices, music lessons and never-ending requests for guitar gear became worth it in an instant. That night was the beginning of my songwriting career.”