People have sung songs of praise since time immemorial in a sacred union of music and religion that is among the oldest human traditions. In the last 100 years, gospel has been one of the most popular forms of music inspired by spiritual beliefs. Evolving from Anglican hymns and 19th-century black spirituals, it flourished in the 20th century, and its emotionally powerful approach went on to have an enormous impact on several secular music styles, influencing soul, jazz, blues and rock. Though not often deemed a mainstream music, gospel has conquered pop charts around the world – and, as this run-down of the best gospel songs reveals, some songs with gospel messages snuck into the charts undetected.
Here, then, are the 20 best gospel songs of all time. Anticipate exhilarating testimonials of faith, soothing balms to heal weary souls, and life-affirming revelations that invoke the holy spirit.
Best Gospel Songs: 20 Rousing Sanctified Evergreens
20: Shackles (Praise You)
In 2000, California vocal duo Mary Mary – sisters Erica and Tecina Atkins-Campbell – wedded a spiritual message with an infectious R&B-slanted chorus and banging hip-hop beats to create a contemporary gospel classic that stormed the pop charts around the globe. The song conquered the Top 5 in the UK and was later covered by US gospel singer Mandisa on her Grammy nominated 2007 debut album, True Beauty, and also sampled by UK rapper Stormzy on his 2019 track Rainfall.