How Great Thou Art: Elvis Presley’s GospelPosted by Elvis Presley's Graceland on Apr 3, 2015 | 16 comments
There are not many rock ‘n’ roll stars who also created incredible gospel music, but then again, there is only one Elvis Presley.
Elvis shook the world with his infectious brand of rock ‘n’ roll, but he also took the world to church with his beautiful, soulful gospel music. Elvis loved traditional sacred music as much as he loved soul, country and rock – maybe even more so.
For Elvis, gospel music was the beginning. The first songs he ever sang were gospel songs at church in Tupelo, Mississippi, and he never stopped singing those hymns. He recorded gospel albums, sprinkled a few of his favorite hymns into his rock ‘n’ roll concerts and loved to sing old-time spirituals with his friends. His vast personal record collection included hundreds of vinyl gospel albums by the likes of the Blackwood Brothers, The Stamps Quartet, Mahalia Jackson and The Statesmen Quartet.
Elvis’ take on the classic spiritual “How Great Thou Art” – whether recorded in the studio or performed on a stage in front of thousands – was always special and sacred. It was one of his favorites, and his performances are always reverent and powerful. Elvis’ daughter, Lisa, loved to hear her father sing it.
The first record of Elvis gospel music, entitled “His Hand in Mine,” was released in 1960. Elvis recorded his second gospel album, also titled “How Great Thou Art,” over four days in 1966. The Jordanaires backed him on the album, but due to a scheduling conflict, the group had to miss part of the recording sessions. The Imperials filled in for them, so Elvis had the pleasure of recording with two of his favorite gospel quartets on the same album.
“How Great Thou Art” was produced by Felton Jarvis. Elvis kept Felton on as his producer for the rest of his life. Ever generous, Elvis helped pay for a kidney transplant Felton needed in 1972.
“How Great Thou Art” won Elvis the first of his three Grammy wins. His third and final gospel album, “He Touched Me,” also won a Grammy Award.
Elvis’ third Grammy Award was also for his gospel music.
His live performance of “How Great Thou Art,” included on his “Elvis Recorded Live On Stage in Memphis,” won a Grammy Award in 1975.
While Elvis was invited to the Grammy Awards each year, he actually never attended. He earned 14 Grammy nominations, and each of his three wins were for his gospel music. Elvis was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2001.
Many music fans watch the Grammy Awards on TV each year, but few have ever actually seen one of the prestigious awards in person. You can do just that at Elvis Presley’s Graceland.
Fans love to walk the Hall of Gold at Graceland. It’s a stunning testimony to Elvis’ success and worldwide reach. The walls are lined with gold and platinum records from all over the world, and fans can see his Grammys there, too.
There are even more awards in the Racquetball Building at Graceland.
Learn more about Elvis’ entire career, including his golden gospel career, at Elvis Presley’s Graceland.