Songwriter Series #5: Bill Gaither

Should the Lord tarry His coming for another 100 years, our great-grandchildren may look back on the era of gospel music in which we live, and they will probably consider Bill Gaither to be the era’s most influential figure.  Through his “bright idea” for the Homecoming series, he helped spark interest in gospel music for a new generation.  With the Gaither Vocal Band and other outlets, he produced some of the best music of this era.  But I believe his most enduring legacy will be the songs.  While not discounting the contributions of Mosie Lister, Dottie Rambo, and others, I think it’s safe to say that Bill Gaither is the most influential Christian songwriter of the last 50 years.  Fifty years from now we may remember him (and his wife Gloria) the way we now remember Fanny Crosby and others from around the turn of the 20th century.

Bill and Gloria co-wrote a majority of the most enduring Gaither songs.  In these co-writes, I believe Gloria tends to be the primary lyricist, while Bill puts the notes on the page.  Both lyric and melody are usually exquisite.  A typical Gaither lyric is marked by creative imagery and emotional depth.  Think of the imagery of the first verse of “He Touched Me”: your mind pictures the shackles, and the touch of Jesus’ hand.  The hope that the Resurrection of Christ gives has never been stated better than in “Because He Lives,” arguably Gaither’s most celebrated work.  Musically, a Gaither song is lush, dramatic, and imaginative.  You’re not going to find many three-chord Gaither songs.  “I’ve Just Seen Jesus,” even without any key changes, has as dramatic a musical progression as you will find.

The influence of Bill Gaither is evident when taking a look at my personal music collection.  He has written or co-written more songs in my library, with duplicates included, than any other single person.  For most people with a wide-ranging gospel music collection, this is probably the case.  See below for a breakdown of Gaither songs in my collection.  Because so many Gaither songs stand on their own, without being defined by a particular artist, the “personal favorites” list reflects how I rank the songs themselves, not the individual performances necessarily.  My favorite recording is given alongside the song.


Unique songs in my collection: 170

Total songs (including duplicates): 463

Most common artists:

  • Gaither Vocal Band – 113
  • Gaither Homecoming Friends – 110
  • Bill Gaither Trio – 54
  • Cathedrals – 48
  • Ernie Haase & Signature Sound – 19
  • Gold City – 11
  • Weatherfords – 11

Songs with 10 or more versions:

  • He Touched Me – 24
  • Because He Lives – 22
  • Going Home – 16
  • There’s Something About That Name – 15
  • Gentle Shepherd – 12
  • I’m Free – 11
  • I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary – 10
  • The King Is Coming – 10

Oldest recording: “Praise for the Lord”, Imperials, Jake Hess and the Imperials (1964)

Newest recording: “Just Because of You”, Legacy Five, A Wonderful Life (2011)

Personal favorites:

  1. Sinner Saved by Grace, Gaither Vocal Band, I Do Believe
  2. Because He Lives, Bill Gaither Trio, Because He Lives
  3. I’m Free, Gaither Vocal Band, Testify
  4. He Touched Me, Gaither Vocal Band, God Is Good
  5. It Is Finished, Gaither Vocal Band, Everything Good
  6. I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary, Gaither Vocal Band, Lovin’ God & Lovin’ Each Other
  7. The King Is Coming, Gaither Vocal Band, Southern Classics
  8. There’s Something About That Name, Bill Gaither Trio, At Home…in Indiana
  9. Gentle Shepherd, Gaither Vocal Band, A Cappella
  10. Let Freedom Ring, Gaither Vocal Band, Let Freedom Ring
  11. The Old Rugged Cross Made the Difference, Gaither Vocal Band, Back Home in Indiana
  12. The Resurrection Morn, Collingsworth Family, Part of the Family
  13. A Picture of Grace, Gaither Vocal Band, Best of the Gaither Vocal Band
  14. The Longer I Serve Him, Greater Vision, Quartets
  15. I’ve Just Seen Jesus, Larnelle Harris & Sandi Patty, Kennedy Center Homecoming
  16. The Church Triumphant (Is Alive and Well), Gaither Homecoming Friends, Atlanta Homecoming
  17. This Could be the Dawning of That Day, Bill Gaither Trio, Because He Lives
  18. We Are So Blessed, Cathedrals, Live…in Atlanta
  19. Since Jesus Passed By, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, Dream On
  20. On the Authority, Gaither Vocal Band, I Do Believe


How about you?  Do you agree about the sphere of Gaither’s influence, or am I off?  What are your favorite Bill and/or Gloria Gaither songs?


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    • John Situmbeko on July 24, 2012 at 4:21 am
    • Reply

    You are right, Gaither is the most influential songwriter in this SG age. One of his songs, Because He Lives, is included in our official Seventh-Day Adventist Hymnal. Very few people who are still alive today have their songs included in our hymnal. Even people in remote villages sing Because He Lives.

    My favourite Gaither song currently is I’m Free. I especially love the version sung by Lynda Randle,David Phelps and the Homecoming Friends on Gaither’s Good News video. This is however subject to change.

  1. Of course, I may be a little biased since I work at Homecoming Magazine, but I agree. And of course, ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) had some say in this as well when, in 2000, they gave Bill and Gloria the title of “Songwriters of the Century.” Bill, an Indiana farmboy-turned-teacher-turned-musician, is grateful and surprised for the blessings and success that have followed him and Gloria as they have pursued their God-bestowed gifts. And thanks for the great article!

    • Karen Drake on January 15, 2013 at 3:28 pm
    • Reply

    Hello Bill and Gloria my name is Karen i am 41 and my mother Florence Gibbs love your shows we have 3 videos for now untill we can get more we Whispering Hope Memphis homecoming and Kennedy Homecoming we watch these everyday cant get enough someday if we ever get the chance would love to see a show live but probably never get too
    I am sending this message so say keep up the good work and all the Blessing filled music and cant wait till i get a new video and I really really like The Hoppers and Miss Cynthia Clawson hoping to see more of Them ………..

    God Bless You All

    Sincerely Karen

    • Lisa Russell on March 4, 2014 at 10:01 pm
    • Reply

    For many years I have enjoyed your music. I love your harmonies and the feelings I receive when both singing and playing your music. I have a question for you… I have written a wonderful song… Beautiful… Do you ever look at works others would submit…Would you ever consider helping to create or nurture a song someone else has? I would love to hear voices such as yours singing or helping to mold a song I have written. If not .. What advice could you give in reference to trying to move in the direction of getting a song to one such as yourself?

    1. Lisa, there is very little chance that Bill Gaither would ever read this post, or your comment. A better way to contact him might be through the Gaither website! This site isn’t affiliated with him in any way, except for the fact that we’re fans of his music, like you!

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