The Top 10 Gospel Songs of All Time

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The Top 10 Gospel Songs of All Time

The greatest gospel songs of all time, as chosen by some of the top musicians in the genre.

What is Gospel Music?

Gospel music is a genre of Christian music. The creation, performance, significance, and even the definition of gospel music varies according to culture and society. Gospel music is composed and performed for many purposes, including aesthetic pleasure, religious or ceremonial purposes, and as an entertainment product for the marketplace.

Gospel music usually has dominant vocals (often with strong use of harmony) with Christian lyrics. Gospel music can be traced to the early 17th century, with roots in the African-American oral tradition. Hymns and sacred songs were often repeated in a call and response fashion. Most of the churches relied on hand clapping and foot stomping as rhythmic accompaniment.

Origins of Gospel Music

The roots of gospel music are usually traced back to the 1700s, when African slaves were brought to North America. Slaves were not allowed to congregate in groups, so they sang in fields while they worked and at religious gatherings after hours. The original gospel songs were heavily influenced by the music of their homeland, which was a mixture of African tribal music and European hymns.

As time went on, gospel music began to evolve. In the early 1800s, a style known as “camp meeting music” emerged. This type of gospel was characterized by its emotional, excited delivery and its focus on conversion. In the mid-1800s, another style known as “spirituals” developed. This type of gospel was more mellow and focused on personal reflection and expression.

It wasn’t until the early 1900s that gospel music began to take on its modern form. This new style, which became known as “jubilee,” was characterized by four-part harmony and more complex chord progressions. It also featured call-and-response singing, which is still a staple of gospel music today.

The jubilee style gave rise to some of the most famous gospel groups of all time, including The Swan Silvertones and The Staples Singers. Jubilee gospel also had a huge impact on secular artists like Mahalia Jackson and Aretha Franklin, who both went on to become legends in the world of soul and R&B.

The Top 10 Gospel Songs of All Time

There are so many great gospel songs out there that it’s hard to narrow it down to just ten. But, here are ten of the best, most popular gospel songs of all time. This list includes classics that have been around for years, as well as some newer songs that are quickly gaining popularity.

“Amazing Grace”

“Amazing Grace” is a Christian hymn published in 1779, with words written by the English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton (1725–1807). Newton wrote the words from personal experience. He grew up without any particular religious conviction, but his life’s path was formative. His time spent serving as a sailor in the Royal Navy, where he was engaged in the slave trade, moved him to widened perspectives and an awareness of his own spiritual need. He became a Christian as an adult and later joined the Church of England.

“Oh, Happy Day”

“Oh, Happy Day” is a gospel song written by Philip Doddridge and arranged and popularized by Edwin Hawkins. The song has been recorded by many artists including Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston. It was included in the soundtrack for the 2019 film “The Best of Enemies”.

The song celebrates Christian joy, specifically the joy that comes from salvation. The lyrics express happiness that comes from being saved from sin and being guaranteed eternal life in heaven. The arrangement of the song is upbeat and joyful, with a prominent piano melody and backing vocal harmony. “Oh, Happy Day” is considered a classic gospel song and has been covered by many artists across multiple genres.

“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”

“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” is a Negro spiritual. The earliest known recording was made by Fisk University’s Jubilee Quartet in 1909. The song was included in several publications in the late 1800s and early 1900s, including Song Stories for the Kindergarten (1889) by Mildred J. Montgomerie (1839-1901) and Negro Folk Songs as Sung by the Virginia Jubilee Quartette (1903).

The song became popularized during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, when it was performed by Mahalia Jackson, Pete Seeger, and Joan Baez, among others. It has since been covered by a wide variety of artists, including Paul Robeson, Sammy Davis Jr., Led Zeppelin, Barbra Streisand, and Whitney Houston.

“I’ll Fly Away”

“I’ll Fly Away” is a gospel hymn written in 1929 by Albert E. Brumley and published in 1932 by the Hartford Music company in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The song remained relatively unknown until it was recorded by the Almanac Singers in 1940. It quickly became a staple among gospel, folk, and country musicians. “I’ll Fly Away” has been recorded by many artists including the Carter Family, Mahalia Jackson, Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, and Alison Krauss. The hymn is often used as a funeral song and considered one of the most important American gospel songs of all time.

“Down by the Riverside”

“Down by the Riverside” is a gospel song that has been sung by many different artists over the years. The song is about taking a stand for what you believe in and not let anything get in your way. The song has been covered by many different artists, but the most popular version is probably by Mahalia Jackson.

“This Little Light of Mine”

This gospel song was written by 1920s civil rights leader and crusader Harry Dixon Loes. It has remained popular over the years, with cover versions by Marian Anderson, Mahalia Jackson, and Rapper LL Cool J, among others. The simple, uplifting lyrics are about spreading joy and keeping the faith even in dark times.

“We Shall Overcome”

“We Shall Overcome” is a gospel song that has been recorded by numerous artists. The song is most commonly associated with the civil rights movement and has been covered by artists such as Mahalia Jackson, Pete Seeger, James Cleveland, and Bruce Springsteen.

“Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)”

“Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” is a gospel song written by Englishman John Newton and American musician and singer Chris Tomlin. The song was released as a single in 2006 and became Tomlin’s signature song. It expresses the experience of finding salvation and the realization that one’s past need not define one’s future.

The song has become a staple of gospel music and has been covered by many artists, including Johnny Cash, Whitney Houston, Carrie Underwood, and LeAnn Rimes. It was also featured in the film “Amazing Grace” (2006), which chronicles Newton’s life.

“How Great Thou Art”

This gospel song has been covered by dozens of artists over the years, but it was originally written by a Swedish missionary in the 1800s. The lyrics are based on a poem by Carl Boberg, and the music is adapted from a traditional Swedish folk melody. The song is all about God’s greatness, and how we as humans can never really comprehend His majesty.

“The Old Rugged Cross”

1. “The Old Rugged Cross” – George Bennard (1912)
2. “Amazing Grace” – John Newton (1779)
3. “Because He Lives” – Bill and Gloria Gaither (1971)
4. “Be thou my Vision” – Traditional Irish hymn (8th century)
5. “Blessed Assurance” – Fanny Crosby (1873)
6. “He Touched Me” – Bill Gaither (1972)
7. “How Great Thou Art” – Carl Boberg (1885), English translation by Stuart K. Hine (1949)
8. “In the Garden” – C. Austin Miles (1912)
9. “Just As I Am” – Charlotte Elliott (1835), William Bradbury (1836), and Truman Richard Fisher (1960)
10.”The Rose” – Amanda McBroom (1980)

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