Elvis Presley is the only artist that was successful in three music genres: rock and roll, country, and gospel. Thus, he is the only artist inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. But out of the three Grammy Awards that Elvis won over his distinguished career, all of those Grammys were for his gospel music. Here is a list of some of Elvis Presley's gospel songs to inspire you.
Elvis Presley Gospel Song | ‘Amazing Grace' – Story of Lyrics
“Amazing grace, oh how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind, but now I see"
This hymn is easily the most recognized song in the world. Some estimates claim that ‘Amazing Grace’ is performed roughly 10 million times annually! Although the tune may be recognizable to most people, many may not be aware of the song’s history.
‘Amazing Grace’ was written in 1772 by John Newton. When he was a child, his mother passed away. Then in his twenties, he was forced to become a servant to a slave trader after he was left by his Royal Navy crew in West Africa. He was eventually rescued but almost died when his ship was returning back to England and hit a huge storm, almost causing it to sink. He cried out to God to save him and the crew.
Once Newton returned to England, he became a slave ship master for several years. But in 1754, he abandoned the slave trade and devoted his entire life to serving God. A decade later, he became an Anglican priest. He started writing hymns and penned over 280 songs, including ‘Amazing Grace.’ His words for this hymn were set to music in 1835 by William Walker.
Years later, Newton fought to abolish the African slave trade. He described the horrors of the slave trade and was able to see the British passage of the Slave Trade Act right before he died.
After learning more about Newton’s life, we're able to more fully understand the depth of his words in this hymn and his gratefulness for God’s grace. This song is a great reminder of God’s amazing grace in our lives, and it’s wonderful to hear so many different artists cover this song.
WATCH: Elvis Presley – Amazing Grace
Elvis Presley | ‘In The Garden' – Inspiring Story of Lyrics
“I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.”
This old hymn was written in 1912 by C. Austin Miles. He also wrote many other religious songs including ‘Answering Thy Call’ and ‘He Is Mine,’ but ‘In The Garden’ is his best-known piece.
In the book Forty Gospel Hymn Stories, Miles recalls the inspiration for ‘In The Garden.’
“One day in March 1912, I was seated in the darkroom, where I kept my photographic equipment and organ,” Miles shares. “I drew my Bible toward me; it opened at my favorite chapter, John 20 – whether by chance or inspiration let each reader decide.”
He then goes on to tell a story about his vision where he saw and heard Mary Magdalene crying outside of the tomb of Jesus. He shares how he "became a silent witness to that dramatic moment in Mary's life, when she knelt before her Lord, and cried, ‘Rabboni!’"
"I awakened in full light, gripping the Bible, with muscles tense and nerves vibrating,” Miles said. “Under the inspiration of this vision, I wrote as quickly as the words could be formed the poem exactly as it has since appeared. That same evening, I wrote the music."
Elvis recorded Miles’ song in 1967, and ‘In The Garden’ is now one of America’s most popular hymns. The song is great at reminding us that the Lord will always take care of us. He will always be with us as we journey through this life.
WATCH: Elvis Presley – In The Garden
Elvis Presley Gospel Song | ‘How Great Thou Art' – Inspiring Story Behind Lyrics
“When Christ shall come,
With shouts of acclamation,
And take me home,
What joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow
In humble adoration
And there proclaim,
‘My God, how great Thou art!'”
This hymn was originally written in 1885 by Swedish evangelist, Rev. Carl Boberg. He set the words to a Swedish folk melody. The hymn became translated to German, then Russian, and then into English. An English missionary named Stuart Hine was responsible for this while he was working in Ukraine and heard a congregation sing the song in Russian. However, ‘How Great Thou Art’ did not gain worldwide popularity until it was performed by George Beverly Shea on a Billy Graham crusade in 1957.
When Elvis recorded ‘How Great Thou Art,’ it only took him four takes. And those who watched him in the studio during the recording session noted that he poured every ounce of his energy into his final performance. You can definitely hear the power and emotion in his voice when you listen to the recording!
This hymn was the title track of his album, How Great Thou Art, which was released on February 27, 1967. The album hit #18 on the Billboard Pop Album chart, and the song won Elvis his first Grammy in 1967.
Elvis won his third Grammy in 1975 for a live performance of ‘How Great Thou Art’ that was on his album Elvis Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis. It’s clear to see that the hymn greatly impacted Elvis’s life, which may be why it was a staple of his live shows until his death in 1977.
WATCH: Elvis Presley – How Great Thou Art
Elvis Presley | ‘Crying in the Chapel' – Story Behind Lyrics
“You saw me crying in the chapel
The tears I shed were tears of joy
I know the meaning of contentment
I am happy with the Lord"
The hymn ‘Crying in the Chapel’ was written by Artie Glen for his son Darrell to sing. Darrell recorded it with his father’s band, Rhythm Riders, in 1953. The song became a local hit and then went nationwide.
On October 31, 1960, Elvis Presley recorded his version of the song and planned to put it on his gospel record, His Hand in Mine. Elvis used The Jordanaires as background vocals on the ‘Crying in the Chapel’ recording, but after three takes, neither party was satisfied with the outcome. The decided to shelf the recording and move on.
It wasn’t until April 6, 1965 that the ‘Crying in the Chapel’ recording was released as a special Easter single for Elvis. And even though the song was held back from release for five years, it became Elvis’ most successful gospel song, quickly selling millions of copies.
The song stood out among current pop songs with its restrained, old-fashioned sound. Something that may not have happened had it been released half a decade earlier. The melody is beautifully “plain and simple” as the church in the song. Its strip-down production allows for Elvis’ heartfelt performance to shine through.
This nostalgic hymn reminds us of the beauty there is when gathering with those of one accord in a simple chapel. It’s a place where we can go to find peace and gain strength when we are weary. What a blessing to know that God is always near to us and He can help us overcome whatever trials we may face. May you be reminded of that today while listening to this song.
WATCH: Elvis Presley – Crying In The Chapel
Elvis Presley Gospel Song | ‘He Touched Me' – Inspiring Story Behind Lyrics
“Shackled by a heavy burden
Need the Lord again and shame
Then the hand of Jesus touched me
And now I am no longer the same"
Elvis’s vocals have a tenderness in this song that’s just heavenly to listen to. The song was first released as a single in March 1972 and then released later that year as the title song of the album ‘He Touched Me.’ Elvis received a Grammy award for this album, and he also achieved the title of Best Inspirational Performance for 1972.
We owe the words and music of this popular hymn to the talented Bill Gaither. He wrote the song in 1963 after joining his friend, Dr. Dale Oldham, on various crusade meetings. While they were driving back to Gaither’s home in Indiana, they conversed about how the Spirit of God was felt so deeply during the gatherings that they attended. Oldham also mentioned something to Gaither that stuck with him.
“One night after one of those meetings, Dr. Oldham said to me, ‘Bill, the word “touch” is a very popular word,'” Gaither recalls. “'It comes up so often in the New Testament stories about Jesus touching people’s eyes and healing them or touching people’s lives and changing them. It’s a special, spiritual word and you ought to write a song that praises His touch.’ So, I did.”
After writing songs for many years, ‘He Touched Me’ was the first song that Bill Gaither wrote that gained national attention. And many big artists, like Elvis, recorded it and made it even more popular with the American public. It’s wonderful to see how this song has touched the hearts of so many people throughout the years, reminding us of the life-changing hope and joy that can be found in Jesus!
WATCH: Elvis Presley – He Touched Me
Elvis Presley | ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord' – Inspiring Story Behind the Lyrics
“Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, let me stand,
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn;
Through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light:
Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home."
This song, written by Thomas A. Dorsey in 1932, has a profound message of hope but came from a place of devastating tragedy. At that time, Thomas recently married his wife Nettie and she was expecting their first child. Dorsey recounts the day when he was performing at a large revival meeting in St. Louis and got the news that would change his life forever.
“In the steaming St. Louis heat, the crowd called on me to sing again and again. When I finally sat down, a messenger boy ran up with a Western Union telegram. I ripped open the envelope. Pasted on the yellow sheet were the words: Your wife just died.”
That tragic moment was one that Dorsey would never forget. Heartbroken, he rushed back home to Chicago. "When I got back, I learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy. I swung between grief and joy,” explained Dorsey. “Yet that night, the baby died. I buried Nettie and our little boy together, in the same casket. Then I fell apart.”
Story Behind Gospel Song ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord’
Thomas fell into despair and withdrew from his family, friends, and his passion, music. During this time, a friend visited him and arranged for him to be left alone in a room with a piano. For the first time in many days, Thomas sat down at a piano and let his fingers glide along the keys. It was just what his soul needed.
“I felt at peace, I felt as though I could reach out and touch God,” recounted Dorsey. “I found myself playing a melody, one I'd never heard or played before, and words came into my head -they just seemed to fall into place."
Those words became the lyrics to his most famous gospel song, ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord.’ The song reminds us that when we are suffering and feeling like we are at the end of our rope, we can always reach out to God.
WATCH: Elvis Presley – Take My Hand, Precious Lord
Elvis Presley Gospel Song | ‘Peace in the Valley' – Story Behind the Lyrics
“Oh well, I'm tired and so weary
But I must go alone
Till the Lord comes and calls, calls me away, oh yes
Well the morning's so bright
And the lamp is alight
And the night, night is as black as the sea, oh yes
There will be peace in the valley for me, some day
There will be peace in the valley for me, oh Lord I pray
There'll be no sadness, no sorrow
No trouble, trouble I see
There will be peace in the valley for me, for me”
This gospel song was originally written in 1937 by Thomas Dorsey and originally recorded by Mahalia Jackson. The song did not become popular though until Red Foley and the Sunshine Boys made it a hit in 1951, making it the first gospel recording to sell one million copies. ‘Peace in the Valley’ also became enormously popular after Elvis sang it on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1957.
The lyrics of ‘Peace in the Valley’ give the listener hope, even though life may be full of hard times. The narrator of the song does not let the difficulties of life bring him down, because he knows that this life is not eternal. God is our ever-present strength and firm foundation. And even in the valleys of life, we can find peace in Him.
WATCH: Elvis Presley – Peace in the Valley
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Featured Image Credit: Facebook/Elvis Presley