Country Throwback: Elvis Presley Stuns Singing ‘How Great Thou Art’ in 1972

by Katie Maloney

In a heartfelt performance from over 47 years ago, Elvis Presley returns to his gospel roots to perform the classic, “How Great Thou Art.”

Growing up in Tupelo, Mississippi, Presley and his family frequently attended the Assembly of God Church. There, Presley developed a love for church music that would influence Presley’s music for his entire career. Presley even used church music to loosen up before concerts and at the beginning of recording sessions.

However, it wasn’t until 1960 that Presley finally released his first full-length gospel album, His Hand in Mine. The album was well received and seven years later, Presley released another church-music-inspired album, How Great Thou Art. The album peaked at #18 on the Billboard Pop Album chart. Additionally, it won a 1967 Grammy for Best Sacred Performance and has sold more than three million copies. During a show in Virginia in 1972, Elvis performed the song, “How Great Thou Art,” from the album.

Elvis Presley performs “How Great Thou Art.”

Elvis Presley Became More “Family-Friendly” With Album

Although Presley had always wanted to record a gospel album, the music didn’t quite align with his rockstar image until later in his career. His manager, Colonel Tom Parker, encouraged Presley to release the His Hand In Mine in 1960.

Parker was attempting to steer Presley’s career from the stage to Hollywood movies. Parker thought the album would help create a more family-friendly image. He hoped Presley’s new image would make the star even more appealing to Hollywood producers.

Presley recorded the entire album during one 14-hour session. The famous vocal quartet, The Jordanaires, provided backup vocals for the album. The album was well-received. The song, “Surrender,” spent 12 weeks on the charts and peaked at number one.

In 2008, RCA issued a remastered version of this album. Forty-eight years after the original release, the remastered album spent 28 weeks on the chart and peaked at the number 12 spot.