The main intent of gospel music is to minister to the soul – not to gain fame or glory. That said, some gospel songs are more popular than others. We’ve compiled this list of the 100 best gospel songs of all time, new and old. Keep reading to learn more!
What is Gospel Music?
Gospel music is a sub-genre of Christian music that originated in 18th-century America. The primary characteristic of gospel music is that it features dominant vocals with Christian lyrics, often mentioning Bible verses or references.
Today, gospel music largely owes its continued success to Black and Southern gospel music, which emerged in the early 20th century and has changed over time to include rap and hip/hop. Drawing on African-American tradition, Black gospel music is often the dominant mode of worship in Black churches and Pentecostal churches. This powerful genre of music has influenced some of the most famous artists of all time, including Elvis, Aretha Franklin, and Prince.
This article divides 100 of the top gospel songs of all time into two categories: Old and new. Since many gospel songs are covers of classic hymns, we'll primarily focus on old gospel songs.
The Best Old Gospel Songs
Old gospel songs like “Amazing Grace” have incredible staying power and are still sung to this day, centuries after their creation. Some classic songs written and performed in the early 20th century have also been covered by numerous modern artists.
Here are some of our favorite old gospel and worship songs from decades past:
1. Amazing Grace
This song, written by John Newton, is one of the best spiritual songs of all time due to its massive popularity worldwide. The song's message of profound spiritual joy relates to many people, leading to it being on thousands of albums and sung by world-class musicians like Elvis Presley and Willie Nelson.
2. Farther Along
"Farther Along" tells the story of a Christian in dismay seeing the wicked prosper while righteous people suffer. The key theme of this song is that somewhere down the line, possibly in Heaven, we'll know why good people suffer and bad people thrive.
While the song's origins are disputed, it's been covered by numerous high-profile musicians like Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, and Sam Cooke.
3. Precious Memories
After losing his five-year-old son, J.B.F. Wright wrote the song "Precious Memories" about how the memories of righteous people are blessed. Throughout the years, this song has been covered by musicians like Bob Dylan and Dolly Parton.
4. Wings of a Dove
Written by Bob Ferguson and performed by Ferlin Husky in the sixties, “Wings of a Dove” tells us that God sends us love “on the wings of a dove,” just like He did for Noah after the Great Flood. The song’s title is a quote from Psalm 55:6: “I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.’”
5. How Great Thou Art
This song, once performed by Carrie Underwood, was written as a hymn by Swedish poet Carl Gustav Bobert in the late 19th century. Its theme of admiring God's greatness made it a popular song worldwide, and it has since been translated into German, Russian, and Maori, among other languages.
6. I’ll Fly Away
Albert E. Brumley’s 1929 hymn “I’ll Fly Away” is the world’s most-recorded gospel song, with covers by Bob Marley, Kanye West, and many other artists. Its themes of eternal life in God’s kingdom make “I’ll Fly Away” a popular choice for church services and funerals.
7. I Saw the Light
Country musician Hank Williams’ 1947 classic tells the story of a sinful man who wandered aimlessly before Jesus came and showed him the light. This song is now a beloved standard in both the country and gospel music scenes, even lending its title to the 2015 Hank Williams biopic starring Tom Hiddleston.
8. Peace in the Valley
Originally titled "There'll Be Peace in the Valley for Me," Thomas A. Dorsey wrote this song for gospel music legend Mahalia Jackson. Elvis Presley further cemented its status as one of the greatest gospel songs of all time after performing it in front of over 50 million viewers on The Ed Sullivan Show.
9. Jesus Paid It All
This classic gospel song written by Elvina M. Hall reminds us that our sins are forgiven because of Jesus. “Jesus Paid It All” is now a favorite among American Christians, with covers from artists like Lory Bianco and Colton Dixon.
10. In the Garden
Ironically, “In the Garden” was composed by former pharmacist C. Austin Miles who lived in a basement without a garden view. This song tells the story of Mary Magdalene meeting Jesus in a garden, as told in John 20:1-18, and is one of Elvis Presley’s favorite gospel songs.
The Best Old Gospel Songs, Numbers 11-80
- “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder”
- “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”
- “The Old Rugged Cross”
- “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”
- “Down by the Riverside”
- “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”
- “Oh Happy Day”
- “It Was Jesus”
- “Didn’t It Rain”
- “Promised Land”
- “Hard Times Come Again No More”
- “Gospel Ship”
- “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”
- “Will My Mother Know Me There”
- “Nearer To Thee”
- “Lord, Remember Me”
- “My Sweet Lord”
- “Down to the River to Pray”
- “Go Down Moses”
- “Gotta Serve Somebody”
- “The Baptism of Jesse Taylor”
- “I Saw a Man”
- “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel”
- “God is Love”
- “Every Time I Feel the Spirit”
- “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”
- “When You Gonna Wake Up”
- Michael, Row the Boat Ashore”
- “Wholy Holy”
- “When the Saints Go Marching In”
- “Move On Up A Little Higher”
- “The Lord’s Prayer”
- “There in a Fountain Filled With Blood”
- “Touch the Hem of His Garment”
- “Abide With Me”
- “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”
- “What a Friend We Have”
- “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”
- “My God is Real”
- “Joshua Fit De Battle of Jericho”
- “Bridge Over Troubled Water”
- “Morning Has Broken”
- “Jesus on the Mainline”
- “Jesus, I Love Calling Your Name”
- The Battle is the Lord’s”
- “Give Me That Old Time Religion”
- “I’d Rather Have Jesus”
- “We’re Blessed”
- “Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior”
- “Alabaster Box”
- “Great Is Your Mercy”
- “The Best Is Yet to Come”
- "O Mary Don't You Weep"
- “Up to the Mountain”
- “His Eye is on The Sparrow”
- “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”
- “Goin’ Up Yonder”
- “Can the Circle Be Unbroken”
- “Mansion Over the Hilltop”
- “Blessed Assurance”
- “Because He Lives”
- “How Firm a Foundation”
- “I Need Thee Every Hour”
- “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
The Best New Gospel Songs
While a large part of gospel music is artists covering classic songs, there are also a lot of new tracks from modern gospel artists. Here are some of the most popular new gospel songs released in recent decades:
1. The Cross
This song from legendary singer-songwriter Prince tells us about the second coming of Jesus Christ and is widely praised as one of the best rock gospel songs.
2. Never Would Have Made It
Musician Marvin Sapp wrote the 2007 hit “Never Would Have Made It” as a tribute to his late father. In this song, Sapp praises God for helping him through everything and that he never would’ve made it if it wasn’t for Jesus.
In this song performed by Jessy Dixon, the singer prays to God to make him pure, holy, and a living sanctuary. Its simple but powerful message makes “Sanctuary” a modern gospel classic.
4. Follow God
While he’s known for his secular music, Kanye West’s Jesus is King contains great gospel tracks like “Follow God.” This award-winning song tells the story of Kanye’s connection with his father and God.
5. I Won’t Go Back
William McDowell’s 2011 song “I Won’t Go Back” is about somebody who has been changed by the Lord and staunchly holds on to their beliefs, not wanting to go back to how they were before finding God. Its message makes the track a favorite among those who want to keep their faith strong.
The Best New Gospel Songs, Numbers 6-25
- “The Church I Grew Up In” by Tasha Cobbs Leonard
- “Shackles (Praise You)” by Mary Mary
- “Days of Elijah” by Robin Mark
- “Good & Loved” by Travis Greene
- “Never Give Up” by Yolanda Adams
- “Imagine Me” by Kirk Franklin
- “I Don’t Mind Waiting” by Juanita Bynum
- “You Are Great” by Juanita Bynum
- “We Fall Down” by Donnie McClurkin
- “Get Up” by Tye Tribbett
- “Total Praise” by Richard Smallwood
- “Just Like God” by Evvie McKinney
- “In Christ Alone” by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
- “I Will Sing” by Don Moen
- “Making Room” by Ricky Dillard
- “Break Every Chain” by Tasha Cobbs Leonard
- “Blessed & Highly Favored” by The Clark Sisters
- “He Reigns” by Kevin Levar
- “I Know Who I Am” by Sinach
- “Let The Church Say Amen” by Andraé Crouch
What is the Most Popular Gospel Song of All Time?
Opinions differ on what the most popular gospel song of all time is, but “Amazing Grace” is arguably the most well-known worldwide. Among newer gospel music, “Shackles (Praise You)” by Mary Mary is extremely popular, with nearly 100 million plays on Spotify!
Ultimately, popularity doesn’t matter as much as the message. All gospel songs are created to uplift the soul, strengthen your belief, and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to both believers and non-believers.