The song was originally written as an instrumental piece and titled "Silent Story." Parts (most musicologists would claim) of the melody are based on a traditional Irish tune (especially the opening phrase of its chorus), the Londonderry Air, which is best known as the usual tune to the 1910 song Danny Boy. Løvland approached Irish novelist and songwriter Brendan Graham to write the lyrics to his melody after reading Graham's novels.
The song was written by and for Løvland himself and performed for the very first time at the funeral of Løvland's mother. Here he noted “there's something about the song people are embracing - which becomes emotionally strong. [...] I believe people think of it as a song they use for their own stuff.”.
In 2002 it was released on the Secret Garden album Once in a Red Moon, with the vocals sung by Irish singer Brian Kennedy, and sold well in both Ireland and Norway. Originally, Brian Kennedy was supposed to follow Secret Garden on their Asian tour in 2002, but fell ill, and could not attend. He was replaced by Norwegian singer Jan Werner Danielsen, who also later recorded the song together with Secret Garden. A demo version of this recording was released in 2010, on Danielsen's posthumous compilation album One More Time - The Very Best Of, which included several previously unpublished recordings.
Although the original version did not chart internationally, the song has now been covered more than 125 times, with the most successful covers being by Josh Groban (#73 in the US and #1 on the US Adult Contemporary chart), Westlife (#1 in the UK), Daniel O'Donnell (#22 in the UK) and Dutch Popstars winner Wesley Klein (#4 in the Netherlands). The song has also found success as part of a three-song EP entitled "George Best - A Tribute" by Peter Corry and the song's original vocalist Brian Kennedy, which reached #4 in the UK.
In 2004, the song was played more than 500,000 times on American radio. In late 2005, there were over 80 versions available in USA alone, and it has become nominated for Gospel Music Awards four times, including "Song of the Year."
On 21 September 2006, "You Raise Me Up" became the first song to have sold over 76,000 copies of the score on the popular sheet music website musicnotes.com.
In 2003, David Foster decided to produce the song after being introduced to it by Frank Petrone of peermusic, the song's publisher. He chose the up-and-coming Josh Groban to record the song, which was accompanied by the great tenor Craig Von Vennik of the Establishment. Groban's version made it to #1 on the Billboardadult contemporary chart in early 2004 and remained there for six weeks. This version also peaked at #73 on the Billboard Hot 100, his first single to do so, and was nominated for a 2005 Grammy award.
On May 26, 2007, Josh Groban appeared on BBC's talent show Any Dream Will Do to select one of the remaining contestants (or "Josephs") to perform the song with him. He chose show favourite and eventual winner Lee Mead, whilst the other four contestants (Lewis Bradley, Craig Chalmers, Ben Ellis, and Keith Jack) performed as backing singers. Following this, the solo version of "You Raise Me Up" charted in the UK at #74, making it his first chart entry there.
On July 23, 2013, Branden James performed this song on America's Got Talent. He received a standing ovation, and even brought Heidi Klum to tears. He then moved on to the semi finals, to be aired later.
"You Raise Me Up" was the lead single from Westlife's fifth studio album, Face To Face. This version is one of the most successful covers of the song, peaking at No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart, the only version to do so. This was the band's 13th number-one single as well as the first single to be released following the departure of Brian McFadden from the group. The single sold 540,000 copies on UK so far. Westlife performed this song with Secret Garden at the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize concert. On December 11, 2009, they performed it again at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize concert celebrating US President Barack Obama. When Louis Walsh suggested the band to record it the members Filan Egan Byrne and Feehily were against it saying it was a church song and wouldn't be a success. They also said they didn't want to record it. However they since claimed in 2011 six years after the singles release that the song changed their careers and were glad they recoded it.
The backing track is reused in the Spanish version of this song, Por Ti Sere, performed by Il Divo in their Siempre album.
On the second season of Popstars in the Netherlands, "You Raise Me Up" was recorded by each of the four finalists - Kim Stolker, Kristel Roulaux, Joshua Newton and Wesley Klein. When Klein won, his version was released as a single in the Netherlands under the mononym Wesley, peaking at #4 in the Dutch Top 40 and staying in the charts for eleven weeks, making it the first version of the song to reach the top 10 in the Netherlands. The song was subsequently released as the final track on his debut album Vandaag en morgen (meaning Today and Tomorrow in Dutch).
British singer Becky Taylor covered the song on her second album Shine (1 July 2003), released before Josh Groban's version.
The song was recorded by Daniel O'Donnell in 2003 and was a hit throughout Ireland and the UK, charting at #22 in the UK.
A version by Christian group Selah (with both verses included, as originally written) went to #1 on Billboard's Christian charts and was included on their 2004 album Hiding Place. This recording was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2005 Dove Awards.
Brian Kennedy re-released the single after performing it at legendary Northern Irish football player George Best's funeral on 3 December 2005. The song charted in the UK at #4 in January 2006 (as part of a three-song EP entitled "George Best — A Tribute").
On May 2, 2009, David Foster protegée Charice released a rendition of "You Raise Me Up" for a Mother's Day album. This song was produced by Star Records of the Philippines.
Also on May 2, 2009, South Korean legendary boy band SHINHWA's lead vocalist Shin Hye Sung successfully performed You Raise Me Up towards the end of his concert during the 2009 Keep Leaves Tour in Seoul. The performance was featured in his DVD of the concert, which was released in the same year, as the 20th track.
On May 9, 2009, Transmontuna (Tuna Universitária de Trás-os-Montes e Alto-Douro )performed "Por ti seré" Video on YouTubeVideo on YouTube, the Spanish version of "You raise me up" together with an Orchestra that joined teachers and students from the Conservatório Regional de Musica de Vila Real, conducted by maestro Vasco Sousa. Luis Rocha, Gaiato, the soloist of this cover, was considered the best voice that ever stood on Vila Real's Theatre stage.
On May 9, 2009, Girls' Generation member Jessica and solo artist Lena Park performed "You Raise Me Up" at the Korea Times Music Festival at the Hollywood Bowl in LA.
On August 3, 2009, Rhap Salazar rendered the song at the necrological service of former Philippine President Corazon Aquino
Paul Byrom of Celtic Thunder, produced by the producer of Celtic Woman, recorded a cover in spring 2009.
The song was also covered in Japanese by Korean-American singer Lena Park as the opening theme to the Japanese anime TV series Romeo x Juliet, which premiered in Japan on April 2007. Park also covered an English version of the song, which was featured in episodes 7 and 24 of the English version of the series, released in two sets in both June and August 2009.
Australian duo Generation Gap recorded the song (complete with both verses) for their album, A New Beginning, which was released in December 2009.
German musical actor Andreas Bieber sang the song as a duet with international star Pia Douwes on his album No Frontiers.
In September 2008, Jewish pop star, Yaakov Shwekey covered the song with some minor changes to the lyrics, so as to be acceptable by the orthodox population.
In 2010, fans of Colchester United FC began to adopt the song as an anthem to be performed in traditional choral style on matchdays while travelling on public transport, on the terraces at away matches and to the delight of the locals in pubs up and down the land.
In January 2010, a Tahitian adaptation by Ronny TERIIPAIA, titled " E AO MÄ'OHI" ( It's a mä'ohi (Polynesian) world by COJT (Committee of young people of The Tävini Huira'atira political party led by Mr Oscar TEMARU whose goal is the independence of French Polynesia) was released.
On February 17, 2010, this song was performed by Korean girl group Brown Eyed Girls to commemorate the return of the nation's popular Mnet Countdown 2010. It is also to perform for the survivors of the Haiti Earthquake.
On February 18, 2010, this song was again performed by Korean artistes on the KBS Music Bank, ranging from Jokwon of 2AM, Kim Jong Kook, Taeyeon and Jessica of Girls' Generation, Jang Hee Young, Ming Kyung Hoon and Jung Yonghwa of CN.Blue. It is also to perform for the survivors of the Haiti Earthquake.
Sony Australia has included a version by Australian singer Mark Vincent on the new album "Flood Relief - Artists For The Flood Appeal". The album was recorded to raise much needed funds for the victims of the devastating floods in Queensland and Northern New South Wales.
For the semi-finals of K-Pop Star in Korea, Park Jimin covered this song.
On September 30, 2013, Filipina Invasion, Jolina Magdangal sung this version in Filipino as "Nassang da Ong" for her upcoming album, scheduled to be released on March 2014.
Use in popular culture
In 2004, Australian Idol Top 12 contestant Daniel Belle sang the song for his "Pop" song selection, and it has become one of the most performed songs on similar shows across the world.
RTE (Ireland's national television station), screened a Roy Esmonde-produced documentary titled You Raise Me Up on New Year's Day 2006. First screened a year earlier, this updated edition included the most recent successes for the song, as well as the story of how the song first came to be written by Løvland and Graham.
On July 26, 2007, the song was performed on 6th International Competition of Young Singers of Popular Music the "New Wave" (Jūrmala, Latvia) by Andris Ērglis representing Latvia on this contest. Song accompaniment recorded by Swedish producers from "Sunday Music" for Latvian music company "Microphone Records".
On March 27–29, 2009, The Australian Foster Care Conference in Fremantle, Western Australia used the title of the song "You Raise Me Up" as the Conference Theme and the song lyrics were posted on their website. "'Raise me up' in the context of foster care carries the dual meaning of 'raising, bringing up or growing up - the foster child', and in doing so 'lifting them up' high and giving them the opportunity to achieve great things.
Recently, the song got played in the bus radio for The 465 CT Transit driver, a Hamden, Connecticut-based Pop/New Age Artist during The 465 CT Transit driver's upcoming 1st instrumental debut album, The Bridge promotional advertisement.