55 Best Gospel Songs Of All Time

Best Gospel Songs Of All Time

The roots of rock, soul, and R&B are firmly rooted in gospel music. This influential genre celebrates divinity and the power of Christ through gorgeous harmonies and beautiful vocals. Many of the best gospel songs of all time have been honored and recorded by different artists throughout the years.


“I Saw the Light” by Hank Williams

Song Year: 1948

Hank Williams is one of the most prolific singers/songwriters of his time. While he’s best known for his country ballads about love lost, he’s also created some of the finest gospel music that we know. Apparently, this song was inspired by his mother, Lilly, and the light that she saw gleaming on the horizon when he was a child.

“Give Me That Old Time Religion” by Traditional African-American Spiritual

Song Year: 1873

One of the most famous and beloved gospel songs of all time, “Give Me That Old Time Religion,” has been performed by country and folk music greats for decades. This version by the Famous Ward Sisters is an excellent rendition, but it’s also been covered by Charlie Rich, Etta James, and Dolly Parton.

“Never Give Up” by Yolanda Adams

Song Year: 2001

This song is an excellent reminder for all Christians to remember to stick with their faith even through trying times. As the title suggests, it’s a rallying cry to remember that God is always with us even through the darkest days.

“Just a Closer Walk With Thee” by Traditional African-American Spiritual

Song Year: 1800s

Sometime in the 1800s, “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” was born. This traditional gospel song has been honored by multiple artists, including Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline. This tune is iconic not only because of its beautiful music but the fact it celebrates faith and serenity. 

“Can The Circle Be Unbroken?” by Ada R. Habershon

Song Year: 1907

This classic gospel tune has been covered by everyone from the Carter Family to the Doors. Its staying power comes from the potency of the lyrics, which both evoke a strong relationship with God and talk about the importance of human connection. Today, it’s one of the most moving and familiar gospel songs of all time.

“Peace in the Valley” by Thomas A. Dorsey

Song Year: 1939

“Peace in the Valley” is one of those fantastic gospel songs that every artist can put their own touch on. Thomas A. Dorsey originally wrote it for Mahalia Jackson, but Sam Cooke’s rendition is one of the most famous ones. Little Richard and Elvis Presley have also covered it.

“Breathe On Us” by Kari Jobe

Song Year: 2014

Thanks to its optimistic message, this relatively new gospel song has quickly become a favorite on the worship circuit. Jobe reminds us to call on God when we’re feeling down because the Holy Spirit will never forsake us. Although it’s only been out for less than a decade, there’s a good chance that it might become a gospel classic.

“Alabaster Box” by Dr. Janice Sjostrand

Song Year: 1999

Grammy award winner CeCe Winans is one of the top gospel performers of all time. Although Dr. Janice Sjostrand initially wrote “Alabaster Box,” it’s an excellent vehicle for CeCe’s incredible voice. Sjostrand’s direct message and beautiful melody put this song all in a league of its own.

“Alabaster Box” is an excellent example of how a great song can beautify a singer’s voice and take on a whole new meaning depending on who is singing it. Although it’s a relatively more contemporary song, it’s undoubtedly destined to become a classic.

“Everybody’s Gonna Have a Wonderful Time Up There” by Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Song Year: 1948

This gospel tune is one of Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s finest. In it, she adds a fun boogie beat to your traditional gospel music, injecting a lot of fun into the song. Sister Rosetta Tharpe is one of the original gospel singers, and her catalog on Decca Records is legendary.

“Imagine Me” by Kirk Franklin

Song Year: 2005

Kirk Franklin’s poignant but straightforward plea for Christian people to turn their attention to God is one of this century's best gospel songs. It also reminds us that God is always there, even in our most trying and troubling times.

Kirk Franklin directly addresses backsliding in this song, which is a refreshing and new chance from a lot of other gospel music. He gently admonishes Christians and reminds them that they must serve the Lord rather than the world.

“Jesus Is Just Alright With Me” by The Art Reynolds Singers

Song Year: 1966

In 1966, The Art Reynolds Sisters took a page out of Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s book with this catchy tune. Its funky, bluesy, and fun style was picked up by the Doobie Brothers, who featured it on Toulouse Street.

“Jesus Is Just Alright With Me” is a fantastic example of how gospel music can influence and change rock and roll. The catchy beat, heavy guitar, and endlessly singable lyrics make this song a genre-bending modern masterpiece.

“My God Is Real” by Johnny Cash

Song Year: 1962

Johnny Cash’s career spanned several different musical genres, but his journey into gospel music is among the most memorable. This song is allegedly inspired by his boyhood time in Arkansas and reminded him of singing to his mother.

Johnny Cash’s road to redemption is one of the most inspirational stories in all of music history. Cash was deeply depressed, addicted to drugs, and hopeless when he finally found the Lord. Yet, the grace of God saved Johnny Cash from a life cut short and allowed him to make music well into his golden years.

“His Eye Is On The Sparrow” by Civilla D. Martin

Song Year: 1905

Civilla D. Martin drew her inspiration for this song from The Book of Psalms. It’s been performed countless times by greats like Mahalia Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Issac, Hayes, Ethel Waters, and Diana Ross. This lovely rendition by Haley Montgomery showcases the range and beauty of the song. 

Although it’s not one of the more popular gospel songs on our list, it’s undeniably beautiful and catchy, making it one of those tunes that are bound to become a new generational favorite. In addition, Civilla D. Martin’s entire body of work is impressive and well-worth listening to.

“Come Before His Presence” by Phillip Bailey

Song Year: 1986

Phillip Bailey’s 1986 tribute to the Lord is a reminder that we never have to travel alone. Instead, we can put our troubles on Jesus and feel free of all of our burdens. It’s a beautiful, optimistic, and soothing song that definitely is one of the top gospel songs of that decade.

“Joshua Fit De Battle of Jericho” by Grant Green

Song Year: 1962

Grant Green really strikes all the right notes with this song, literally and figuratively. It’s a melodic tour de force about a famous biblical battle that pitted Joshua against the Canaanites. The unique subject material and incredible music set this tune apart from the rest.

“Jesus On The Mainline” by Traditional African-American Spiritual

Song Year: mid-1800s

Although Ry Cooder is often credited with performing this song in the 1970s, it’s actually an African-American religious roots music gospel song that dates back to the mid-1800s about talking to Jesus about your troubles. Randy Travis, Robert Plant, and countless others performed it over the years.

As with many traditional African-American spirituals, “Jesus On The Mainline” heavily influenced modern country, blues, and rock music. Although we can’t credit the original artist, it’s essential to pay tribute to the fact that these types of songs built the backbone for modern, popular American music.

“Great Is Your Mercy” by Donnie McClurkin

Song Year: 2000

Donnie McClurkin’s 2000 gospel hit is a classic example of the genre, with incredible backup vocals, solos, and an inspirational message of love and mercy. It’s one of the best songs on McClurkin’s Live in London and More album.

“I’d Rather Have Jesus” by George Beverly Shea

Song Year: 1922

Alison Krauss’ haunting voice is the perfect match for George Beverly Shea’s epic song. Shea performed with evangelical greats like Billy Graham and used his music to reach and inspire Christians worldwide during his lifetime.

“Pass Me Not O Gentle Saviour” by Fanny Crosby

Song Year: 1868

Fanny Crosby was the undisputed Queen of Gospel, and this song is an excellent example of why. It strikes the perfect balance between lyrical intensity and sweetness and is the ideal vehicle for Bob Dylan’s twangy rasp.

“I Won’t Go Back” by William McDowell

Song Year: 2011

This song is really William McDowell’s plea to Christians not to backslide in times of trouble. Whereas many gospel songs implore us to look to God, this tune asks us to look inside of ourselves and reject the darker days before we were saved.

“We’re Blessed” by Fred Hammond

Song Year: 1995

Fred Hammond’s toe-tapping reminder to always count your blessings is one of the catchiest gospel songs around today. It’s been a favorite tune for worship services, churches, and youth groups ever since its debut in 1995. The entire album The Inner Court is a winner, but this song stands out as the breakout tune.

“Jesus, I Love Calling Your Name” by Shirley Caesar

Song Year: 1987

Shirley Caesar is a modern-day gospel legend who started her long and decorated career at the tender age of 12. As a part-time preacher, Caesar has her finger on the pulse of what her congregation needs, and this song is the ideal celebration of love, light, and praising the Lord.

“Sinnerman” by Nina Simone

Song Year: 1962

Nina Simone’s memorable, sultry voice gives this song depth and just a touch of haunting melody. Simone’s song takes its cue from an African-American spiritual song and puts her own spin on it. Live versions of “Sinnerman” could last up to 15 minutes.

The original song, and Simone’s version, both detail a sinner who is trying to evade the wrath of God on Judgement Day and offers a stern warning to would-be sinners that their time will surely come.

“Morning Has Broken” by Eleanor Farjeon

Song Year: 1931

Cat Stevens’ triumphant version of “Morning Has Broken” by Eleanor Farjeon is an innocent and sweet take on your traditional gospel song. Complete with rocking piano by Rick Wakeman of Yes, and Stevens’ own amazing vocals, the artist found great success through his performance of this iconic song. 

“I Don’t Mind Waiting” by Juanita Bynum

Song Year: 2006

Juanita Bynum’s modern-day classic hit gives us a well-needed lesson in the importance of patience. She tells us that we shouldn’t expect instant gratification from God and that the best things come to those who wait in faith.

“Oh Happy Day” by The Edwin Hawkins Singers

Song Year: 1969

This cheery song about the joys of being a Christian soon became a gospel favorite. Today, you can hear it in just about any religious revival or church, but the best version has to be by the original artists, The Edwin Hawkins Singers.

“We Fall Down” by Donnie McClurkin

Song Year: 2000

Another excellent gospel offering from Donnie McClurkin, this song off his Live in London and More album, discusses the challenges and hurdles that life throws at us and how we can overcome them through the grace of God.

“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” by Wallis Willis

Song Year: 1865

Wallis Willis’ beautiful baritone and bass ballad, is one of the most famous and popular gospel songs of all time. There’s some evidence that Willis references the Underground Railroad in the song, and its message of hope and perseverance resonates even today.

“When Mama Prayed” by Randy Travis

Song Year: 2002

Randy Travis is one of the most popular country music stars on the planet, and he’s done his fair share of gospel music too. In 2002, “When Mama Prayed” became the breakout song of his Rise and Shine album and is a fitting tribute to his mother and her commitment to the Lord.

“Put Your Hand In The Hand” by Anne Murray

Song Year: 1971

Anne Murray’s poppy, fun reminder to always walk hand-in-hand with the Lord, touched plenty of religious and secular people. This song was such a massive hit that Joan Baez, Bing Crosby, and Elvis Presley all covered it.

“Sanctuary” by Jessy Dixon

Sanctuary by Jessy Dixon

Song Year: 2006

While many gospel songs ask the Lord for something in the material world, Dixon’s beautiful ode to Christianity and God does something a little bit different. In it, he calls on the Lord to make him as pure as possible so that he might be a better Christian.

“Amazing Grace” by John Newton

Song Year: 1772

John Newton’s epic song “Amazing Grace” is easily the most famous gospel song in the world. Newton penned it after experiencing a divine intervention and salvation, and it’s been covered by countless people, from Mahalia Jackson to Joan Baez. There are over 1,000 recorded versions of “Amazing Grace.”

“Move On Up A Little Higher” by W. Herbert Brewster

Song Year: 1946

Although W. Herbert Brewster wrote this song, Mahalia Jackson took it to the next level with this version. Her towering vocals combined with the perfect harmony of the music easily make it one of the best gospel songs of all time.

“Shackles (Praise You)” by Mary Mary

Song Year: 2000

Tecina and Erica Atkin-Campbell, AKA Mary Mary, put together this catchy gospel tune back in 2000, and its been captivating worship groups and choirs ever since. With a simple message and a rocking R&B beat, it’s bound to become a gospel standard.

“Days Of Elijah” by Robin Mark

Song Year: 1997

Robin Mark’s “Days Of Elijah” celebrate prophetic messages and listening to the Lord. It talks about how the Lord provides wisdom and guidance for those that follow during hard times. Several artists, including Twila Paris, have covered this song.

“The Cross” by Prince

Song Year: 1987

Prince was a music icon, so it’s no surprise that his Sign O’ The Time album would contain a gospel hit with an impeccable melody and a great message. Prince sings about Jesus coming back to earth in this moving ballad that talks about the importance of righteousness.

“Yah Mo B There” by James Ingram

Song Year: 1983

On the surface, this song just sounds like the perfect jam, but if you dig a little bit deeper, you will understand the significance of the lyrics. James Ingram’s pop tune has a profound message about learning how to discover your own inner peace and the importance of surrendering to God.

“Jesus On The Mainline” by Traditional African-American Spiritual

Song Year: Recorded in 1974

The original writer of “Jesus On The Mainline” is Unknown, but it was recorded in 1974 by Ry Cooder for Paradise And Lunch. This traditional song has the hopeful message of telling Jesus your troubles and getting what you need through the power of prayer. 

“There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood” by William Cowper

Song Year: mid-1800s

Gospel queen Aretha Franklin recorded Songs Of Faith at 14, which included her rendition of William Cowper’s mid-1800s poem and hymn “There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood.” Like all of her work, Aretha’s take on the classic poem is timeless and heartfelt.

“Here I Am To Worship” by Tim Hughes

Song Year: 1999

Lyricist Tim Hughes wrote this modern-day classic gospel song in 1999, and it was released by Hillsong Worship in 2003. It’s a moving, vivid ballad that celebrates everything related to the Lord and learning about the gospel of Christ.

“Touch The Hem Of His Garment” by Sam Cooke

Song Year: 1956

Sam Cooke wrote and performed “Touch The Hem Of His Garment” for his work with The Soul Stirrers, a gospel group that he participated in before striking out on his own. What makes this song so moving and unique are the expert vocals and amazing harmonies that run through it.

“Ain’t No Need To Worry” by The Winans

Song Year: 1988

The 1980s were a good time for the gospel, and The Winans, a quartet of brothers, were one of the top art artists. “Ain’t No Need To Worry” takes classic spiritual themes and blends them with R&B for a whole new sound with a God-glorifying message.

“When The Saints Go Marching In” by James Milton Black

Song Year: 1938

Although “When The Saints Go Marching In” takes some of its cues from Revelation, this upbeat song is definitely not a dire warning about the end of times. Jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet have covered this fantastic tune throughout the years.

“Mary Don’t You Weep” by Traditional African-American Spiritual

Song Year: early 1800s

The author of “Mary Don’t You Weep” is unknown, although the Fisk Jubilee Singers are credited with recording it in 1915. One of the most famous renditions of this soulful gospel classic comes from Aretha Franklin in 1972.

“Lord’s Prayer” by Albert Hay Malotte

Song Year: 1935

Dinah Washington’s version of Albert Hay Malotte’s “Lord’s Prayer” is an exquisite example of gospel singing at its finest. “Lord’s Prayer” is familiar subject material to any Christian, and the simple words are amplified throughout the song.

“I’ll Fly Away” by Albert E. Brumley

Song Year: 1929

“I’ll Fly Away” was popularized in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the Coen Brothers’ spin on The Odyssey, but the original roots of the song go back to 1929. It’s a great example of a somber message packaged up in a catchy tune.   

“Never Would Have Made It” by Marvin Snapp

Song Year: 2007

Marvin Snapp’s modern-day gospel classic celebrates the core of Christianity, namely praising and thanking the Lord. Snapp credits the Lord for his musical success and devotes this entire song to giving thanks.

“Abide With Me” by Henry Francis Lyte

Song Year: 1847

“Abide With Me” is a classic gospel song with a standard message. In it, Henry Francis Lyte implores the Lord to remain by his side throughout life and death. Apparently, he penned the tune while suffering from tuberculosis. Thelonious Monk gives it a jazzy spin in this rendition. 

“He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” by Traditional African-American Spiritual

Song Year: published in 1927

This iconic gospel song is a traditional African-American spiritual. Although the author and origin dates are both unknown, “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” was first published in 1927. It skyrocketed to popularity in the mid-1900s and has been recorded by multiple artists ever since.

“Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen” by Traditional African-American Spiritual

Song Year: 1867

Although Harry Thacker Burleigh often gets credited for “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen,” he’s not the original writer. Burleigh published a collection of traditional African-American spiritual songs in 1917. Louis Armstrong’s rendition of this mournful gospel tune is perhaps one of the most compelling and moving versions.

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Paul Simon

Song Year: 1969

Paul Simon’s simple ballad “Bridge Over Troubled Water” has all of the classic components of a gospel music song. It calls on a higher power, offers surrender, and gives a small beacon of faith in troubled times.

“Total Praise” by Richard Smallwood

Song Year: 2001

Richard Smallwood’s “Total Praise” celebrates surrender and understanding that your circumstances are in the hands of the Lord. It’s a universal message that resonates strongly with people of all ages.

“Down By The Riverside” by Traditional African-American Spiritual

Song Year: mid-1800s

“Down By The Riverside” is a traditional gospel song first published in 1918, but its roots go back to the mid-1800s when it was first penned and sung by enslaved people. John Cash, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley all have covered this song.

“Precious Lord, Take My Hand” by Thomas A Dorsey

Song Year: 1932

Thomas A Dorsey penned this song when his wife and son died in 1932. It’s a beautiful reminder that we can always call on God during the most challenging moments of our lives and is a modern-day gospel standard.

“Follow God” by Kanye West

Song Year: 2019

Kanye West’s 2019 gospel tune fuses traditional gospel music, hip-hop, and pop. It’s one of the best tracks on Jesus is King and won Billboard Music’s award for Top Gospel Music. West’s attention to detail, moving lyrics, and signature style helped him make the transition from rap and hip hop to gospel.

Top Gospel Songs Of All Time, Final Thoughts

Whether or not you’re religious, you should understand and appreciate the significance of gospel music.

Many famous gospel songs started as traditional African-American spirituals and became the roots of what we know as rock, R&B, and soul today. These best gospel songs of all time share his message through the beauty and power of song.  

Similar Posts