The conversation about the greatest gospel hymn of all time begins and ends with “Amazing Grace.” And rightfully so. Along with “How Great Thou Art” and “I’ll Fly Away,” “Amazing Grace” is easily one of the most recognizable tunes to grace any church. In fact, it’s one of the most recognizable songs—in any genre.
Penned in 1772 by poet/clergyman John Newton, “Amazing Grace” has been recorded thousands of times over the last 100 years. Artists from all genes have sung the praises of the spiritual tune, including George Jones, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Dianna Ross, Willie Nelson, and many, many more.
After dominating the charts in the 1990s, Randy Travis took a detour from traditional country music to release a string of inspirational/gospel albums, including 2000’s Inspirational Journey, 2002’s Worship & Faith, 2004’s Passing Through, 2005’s Glory Train, and 2007’s Songs of the Season.
Randy recorded a stunning version of “Amazing Grace” as the closing track on Inspirational Journey. In addition, Randy performed a stirring rendition of “Amazing Grace” at George Jones’ public funeral in 2013.
Merle Haggard released his double live gospel album, The Land of Many Churches, in 1971. The 24-track offering included country classics like Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light” and Johnny Gimble’s “Guide Me, Lord.” In addition, the album featured traditional hymns such as “Precious Memories,” “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” and “Amazing Grace.”
The album was recorded across performances at four venues, including the chapel at San Quentin State Prison. Of course, Merle did a stretch there in the late 1950s.
Alan Jackson is easily one of the greatest country music singers of all time. But the man also had the gospel chops to match his country crooning. AJ returned to the gospel music he loved as a child by recording Precious Memories in 2006. He packed 15 of his favorite gospel tunes on that album. But he didn’t release “Amazing Grace” until seven years later when he dropped Precious Memories Volume II.
As Alan told Country Weekly magazine in 2013, he was initially hesitant to record the gospel standard. “I didn’t really want to do that one because I felt like it’s been done a lot,” said Alan. “But Denise said, ‘I love that song. I want you to do it on this album.’ After I did it, it’s one of my favorites on there.”