With such a rich history supporting it, it’s difficult to pick a list of the best gospel songs. Any attempt to claim being the definitive list will no doubt meet spirited debate. That’s why a “top-ten”, or whatever other size list, is fun to create. They encourage debate and give fans a chance to add their own favorites to the discussion. It proves how popular gospel music is worldwide.
Songwriters compose gospel music to convey a personal or a community way of thinking regarding their Christian beliefs. The styles of gospel music vary as much as the creators of it do. That’s why it has such a diverse audience. Today, there’s gospel music targeted to the younger set. In addition, there are adult contemporary as well as the traditional offerings.
Regardless of the styles that are out there, a canon of standard popular gospel songs does exist. The following are some of the songs that traditionally make it onto a list of the most popular songs in the gospel genre. You will probably recognize many of them.
John Newton, an Englishman wrote the lyrics to this song. It first appeared in print in 1779 in Newton’s Olney Hymns. A plethora of artists from decade to decade has performed their versions of this much-loved work. The music of the song is a variant of an earlier written tune called “New Britain.”
Because He Lives
Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote this gospel song in 1970. Their inspiration for this song was the birth of healthy son Benjamin that year.
Daddy Sang Bass
Carl Perkins wrote this tune in 1968. Johnny Cash recorded the song that year and it went to number one on the charts. It enjoyed a several month stay there. It still enjoys consideration as a beloved gospel song to this day.
Peace in the Valley
Thomas A. Dorsey, originally wrote Peace in the Valley in 1939. He wrote it for Mahalia Jackson. The song was a hit for Red Foley and the Sunshine Boys in 1951.
Just a Little Talk with Jesus
This song is also a cherished gospel favorite. The likes of Brenda Lee, The Oak Ridge Boys, and Loretta Lynn have their versions of this song. In addition, so do The Statler Brothers and Elvis Presley.
Wings of a Dove
Bob Ferguson wrote this gospel song in1958. It became his first multi-million seller song. Ferlin first recorded the song, and a host of artists has since recorded it in many languages. In 1987, Wings of a Dove received BMI’s “One million airplays” Award.
How Great Thou Art
This song is a Christian hymn based on a Swedish poem written by Carl Gustav Boberg. Elvis Presley performed this piece, as did Tennessee Ernie Ford, Roy Rogers, and Connie Smith.
I Saw the Light
In 1948, Hank Williams Sr. wrote and first performed this gospel song. Crystal Gayle, Jerry Reed, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Earl Scruggs, and Hank Williams Jr. have also set forth their renditions of this popular tune.
Oh Happy Day
Oh Happy Day is a gospel arrangement of an 18th century hymn, composed in 1967. The Edwin Hawkins Singers recorded it and in 1969, it became an international hit.
Just a Closer Walk With Thee
The first known recording of this gospel song was on October 8, 1941. The performers were the Selah Jubilee Singers. The song is one of the more popular ones to find use in the hymn and dirge section of jazz funerals in New Orleans.
Gospel songs are a way for devotees to manifest their deep spiritual feelings. They’re also the backdrop for celebrations, services, ceremonies and the like in the Christian community. It’s easy for a sheet of gospel music, a piano player, and a piano, to get a group of people singing whole-heartedly. That’s the beauty of this type of music.
The above list is a representation of those deemed in the upper echelon of favorites. The most popular songs of all time in gospel music certainly inspire a legion of fans. You may have your own favorites to add to the list as well. With more gospel music recorded each year, the list will continue to be one of variety and change.