It’s been 18 years since Randy Travis sang of forgiveness and legacy in “Three Wooden Crosses.” The song released on Nov. 25, 2002, and proved to be a hit for Travis.
It featured on his album “Rise and Shine.”The song topped the charts when it debuted and won a CMA Award. And in the years since, the tune has become one of Travis’ signature songs. He named his 2009 greatest hits compilation album after the tune. He titled the album “Three Wooden Crosses: The Inspirational Hits of Randy Travis.”
The Song’s Writers Discuss Randy Travis’ Hit Single
The song tells the story of four individuals riding a bus bound for Mexico. After a wreck, three of the passengers die, and the fourth is changed by their passing. The song speaks to the legacies people leave behind after their deaths. Songwriters Kim Williams and Doug Johnson reflect on the lasting power of the song.
“One night, I was sitting around the house,” Johnson told WSLC . “And I came up with the characters – a farmer, a teacher, a preacher, and a hooker – on their way to Mexico. I thought it was a really odd grouping of people, but from that, the first verse and the melody of a song just kind of came out…I just had to figure out what was going to happen.”
Johnson decided to pitch the song to Williams. And together, they began to work on the song together.
“That was one of the best opening lines to a song I’d ever heard,” Williams recalls. “I remember telling Doug that I didn’t know where this was going – but I couldn’t wait to find out!”
The two decided almost immediately the prostitute would be the one to survive the song. They wanted to play into the tune’s theme of forgiveness and understanding.
“I think we both knew that it would be the hooker,” says Johnson with a laugh. “It seemed to fit in with the theme of forgiveness and understanding that we were going for. I am always moved by messages of mercy, and by stories of outcasts who are saved by love.”