According to Time magazine, Sharon Batts was an unlikely candidate for pop stardom. But at age nine the brown-eyed third-grader from the Fort Worth suburb of Bedford successfully bypassed the music-industry moguls with a hit single about a subject few would have picked for Top 40 playlists 2 decades ago. "Dear Mr. Jesus,/ I just had to write to you," Sharon's tinny voice sings plaintively. "Something really scared me/ when I saw it on the news./ A story about a little girl/ beaten black and blue." After imploring Jesus to come to the rescue of abused children, the song concludes, "Dear Mr. Jesus,/ please tell me what to do./ And please don't tell my daddy/ but my mommy hits me, too."
Recorded in September 1985 by the Bedford-based Gospel Workshop for Children, a nonprofit evangelical Christian "music ministry" organized by Sharon's mother Jan, Dear Mr. Jesus first aired in 1986 on a Port Arthur, Texas, radio station. Word of mouth and a 4 1/2-minute music video starring Sharon and her doll Bessie slowly spread the song on stations in Florida and Texas, where it attracted a response from hundreds of overwrought callers eager to discuss their own experiences with child abuse.
Being an adult child of an alcoholic, I hope we can continue the healing.
Dear Mr. Jesus,