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You don’t have to be at church on Sunday to experience church. You can also experience it every other day of the week when you have a playlist of gospel songs ready.
Well, have no fear, we have given you a list of the 25 best gospel songs to get you started, and with these, you’ll be ready to go to church at any moment, prepared for worship and praise.
25. “Daddy Sang Bass” – Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash takes us to church with his 1968 song “Daddy Sang Bass,” which tells the story of a poor family coming together to praise the Lord in music, no matter their struggles.
Later in the song, he sings of the loss of his brother, perhaps hinting at his own family life and how he’ll join the family circle at the throne of the Lord, singing again. It may be more subtle than other gospel songs on our list, but it’s no less powerful.
24. “When Mama Prayed” – Randy Travis
While not one of the most popular songs Randy Travis ever recorded, “When Mama Prayed,” which he released as part of his 2002 album, Rise and Shine, is one of the best gospel songs to grace our list.
It’s an inspirational song as the narrator recalls hearing his mama pray and realizing the good things that happened when she did. It’s a clear reminder that God does answer prayers.
23. “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood” – Aretha Franklin
The Queen of Soul brought it to this gospel hymn of the mid-1700s when she released her Songs of Faith: Aretha Gospel album in 1956.
“There is a Fountain Filled with Blood” is one of many gospel songs that pay homage to the image of Christ’s blood washing away man’s sins.
22. “How Great is Our God” – Chris Tomlin
One of the newer gospel songs on our list, Chris Tomlin, has given us many fantastic originals but “How Great is Our God” is one of his best.
With platinum record sales, number one positions, and multiple awards from the GMA Dove Awards, it’s a modern twist on the sentiment expressed in the traditional “How Great Thou Art” hymn, and we love it.
21. “Who Am I” – Casting Crowns
Casting Crowns has made a name for themselves as one of the most popular Christian Rock bands of the 21st century, and we can see why with their 2004 release of “Who Am I” as the second single from their debut album.
It’s the ultimate reminder that God’s love is unconditional, faithful, and great, even when undeserved.
20. “Are You Washed in the Blood” – Louvin Brothers
What makes a memorable Gospel hymn? Scripture references, of course. Thus does this 1878 hymn written by Elisha Hoffman. Covered by many artists, the Louvin Brothers’ version is one of our favorites.
They have us shouting “Yes!” when they ask if we’re washed in the blood of the lamb.
19. “Walk by Faith” – Jeremy Camp
When you know the backstory of Jeremy Camp’s 2002 single “Walk by Faith,” it’s easy to render it one of the best gospel songs ever written in the modern-day contemporary Christian music genre.
Promising to walk by faith in Christ amid trial and darkness is a message every Christian must remember.
18. “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” – Louis Armstrong
This hit gospel song is an anthem of slavery in the 1700s, even though it wasn’t officially published until 1867.
While many notable covers of the song have been released over the years, Louis Armstrong’s version in 1957 as part of his I’ve Got the World on a String album, is the most popular, and we don’t even have to question why, as he represents his African American brothers and sisters well.
17. “Peace in the Valley” – Elvis
Elvis Presley may have been the King of Rock’ n Roll, but he also knew how to bring it home with some of the best gospel songs ever recorded, and “Peace in the Valley” tops them all.
Who wasn’t moved when he closed his 1957 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show with it and dedicated it to the 250,000 refugees fleeing from Hungary following the double invasion by the Soviet Union just a few months prior? It led to $6 million being raised to aid the refugees, making it an even more iconic performance.
16. “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” – Mahalia Jackson
This traditional African American spiritual is one of our favorite gospel songs to listen to when we need to be reminded that God’s got this.
When gospel singer and civil rights activist Mahalia Jackson covered the song, it entered the Billboard Top 100 singles chart and became one of her most memorable songs ever recorded.
15. “Oh Happy Day” – The Edwin Hawkins Singers
Let’s face it. Gospel songs aren’t always the most well-received, but The Edwin Hawkins Singers were the exception when they made “Oh Happy Day” an international hit in 1969.
This influential song praising the “happy day” that “Jesus washed my sins away” was a Top 5 hit in the United States, France, Germany, Canada, Ireland, the UK, and even the Netherlands.
If that weren’t enough to make us love it, it further solidified itself as one of the best gospel songs when Ryan Toby hit that note in Sister Act II: Back in the Habit. He was undoubtedly feeling the Holy Spirit.
14. “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” – Whitney Houston
“I Will Always Love You” is not the only notable cover song that Whitney Houston gave us throughout her career.
“His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” originally written in 1905, was recorded by the legendary artist in 2012 as part of the soundtrack for the film Sparkle. With its Biblical connotations to the words of the psalms of David and those of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel, it’s even more of a precious listen when you consider that it was one of the last released before the singer’s untimely death.
Now, she no longer has to be lonely or “long for heaven and home.”
13. “Old-Time Religion” – Etta James
Etta James, a legendary singer of many genres, brings the traditional Gospel song “Old-Time Religion” to life again.
Thanks to Charles Davis Tillman, the song has enormously influenced black spiritual and white gospel traditions, better known as southern gospel.
12. “Great is Your Mercy” – Donnie McClurkin
One of the newer gospel songs to grace our list, “Great is Your Mercy” by Donnie McClurkin, was released in 2000 and hears the singer praising the never-ending mercy of God.
It’s one of the best gospel songs to queue up when you’re feeling downtrodden and alone. Soon you’ll be surrounded by his loving mercy and lifted once again.
11. “I’ll Fly Away” – The Kossoy Sisters
The Kossoy Sisters covered this classic 1930s hymn in 1956 as part of their album Bowling Green. While it did well on its own, their version of “I’ll Fly Away” was even more popularized when it was included on the soundtrack for the 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou?
This classic song reminds us that we shouldn’t fear death because “when this life is o’er,” we’ll fly away “to a home on God’s celestial shore,” and that’s a reason to shout “Hallelujah bye and bye.”
10. “I Saw the Light” – Hank Williams
This country gospel hit was one of the most signatures by the late, great Hank Williams.
Released in 1948, “I Saw the Light” is a beautifully written song about breaking away from the darkness of sin and letting the Lord in to bring you back to the light.
9. “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” – Ella Fitzgerald
The Ralph Carmichael Choir joined Ella Fitzgerald for her rendition of this 1870 Christian hymn in 1967 for her Brighten the Corner album, and because of it, this version of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” has remained the most memorable.
The full sound puts the meaning in the word spiritual and is an experience that fills us with hope and joy with every listen.
8. “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” – Van Morrison
“Just a Closer Walk with Thee” is one of those gospel songs that we can’t help but be brought to tears, and Van Morrison’s 1991 cover version is no exception.
We can’t help but be comforted when we think about how Jesus will always walk with us through the trials of life and guide us safely home.
7. “Blessed Assurance” – CeCe Winans
When CeCe Winans recorded “Blessed Assurance” as part of her 1995 Alone in His Presence album, we fell in love with this classic 1873 hymn all over again.
We will forever shout in praise, “Jesus is mine,” when we hear it.
6. “In the Garden” – Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson included the 1912 gospel song “In the Garden” on his 1976 album, The Troublemaker, and it only took one listen for it to become one of our favorite tracks.
While the lyrics suggest a message of faith, love, and trust in the grace of God, we also can’t help but feel as though we’re in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus tarrying there to the cross together.
5. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” – Big Bill Broonzy
When Big Bill Broonzy covered this African American spiritual song, deemed one of the best Christian gospel songs of all time, it grabbed our heartstrings.
If that weren’t enough, knowing it was the last song he ever recorded over a 30-year career and that it was then played at his funeral automatically makes his version our favorite of this traditional call-and-response hymn.
4. “Old Rugged Cross” – Alan Jackson
We could have chosen several versions of this old traditional hymn, but Alan Jackson’s rendition of “Old Rugged Cross,” recorded for his Precious Memories album, is our favorite.
Written in 1912, of all the songs on our best gospel songs list, “Old Rugged Cross” is the most emotionally captivating of the central point of our Christian life as it commemorates the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Jackson’s honest and straightforward performance of this song has only made it more of a timeless classic than it already was.
3. “Softly and Tenderly” – Carrie Underwood
While Carrie Underwood recorded “Softly and Tenderly” for her 2021 gospel album, My Savior, that’s not when she solidified her spot as the best cover of this classic hymn.
No. She did that when she sang the beautiful song live at the Country Music Association Awards in 2017 for the In Memoriam segment. If we weren’t already in tears as pictures of the singers, musicians, and writers lost throughout the year showed on the screen behind her, we were a mess when it ended with the photos of the victims of the shooting in Las Vegas earlier that year. Even Underwood was brought to tears by the end of the performance, showing the honesty and emotion she was able to bring to the song.
2. “Can the Circle Be Unbroken” – The Carter Family
It’s the gospel song to end all gospel songs that defined the faith of generations when it was released in August 1935 by the famous Carter Family.
“Can the Circle Be Unbroken” is a re-release of the early 1900s hymn, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” by Ada R. Habershon and Charles H. Gabriel. Throughout, the narrator talks of mourning the death of his mother as the funeral procession goes by. It’s heart-wrenching, especially for those of us who understand that kind of loss, but like any good gospel hymn, it has a semblance of hope as we’re reminded that we’ll meet them again someday “in the sky, Lord, in the sky.”
1. “Amazing Grace” – Ray Charles
“Amazing Grace” is another classic hymn that we could choose a whole host of artists who have covered it, but when Ray Charles released his emotional version for the Music of Hope album to benefit the American Cancer Society in 2000, it brought about a whole new way of looking at the classic hymn about forgiveness, redemption, and the deep love of God.
It truly has a singing: “How sweet the sound!”
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