Music

'The Old Rugged Cross': The Story Behind the Country-Gospel Standard

Screengrab via YouTube

Several gospel favorites have found homes in the comfortable arms of country music. "Amazing Grace," "Because He Lives," "How Great Thou Art," 'What A Friend We Have In Jesus,' and 'The Old Rugged Cross' are all popular hymns that live on the setlists and records of country artists like Alan Jackson, Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill.

'The Old Rugged Cross'

George Bennard was born in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1873 and spent his childhood in Iowa. He was converted to Christianity at a Salvation Army meeting and later became a Methodist evangelist.

The beloved hymn began in Albion, Michigan, where Bennard was attending a revival meeting. By the end of the revival tour in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, Bennard and his revival partner, Ed E. Mieras, debuted the song as a duet on the last evening of the revival. In 1913, the famous gospel song composer, Charles H. Gabriel, helped Bennard find the perfect harmonies and chords for the hymnal classic.

The song was first published in 1915 in Heart and Life Songs for the Church, Sunday School, Home, and Campmeeting, a songbook edited by Bennard and two other colleagues.

Eventually, Billy Sunday made the song a staple in his evangelical ministry. Sunday's chief musician, Homer Rodeheaver, would end up purchasing the rights to the song for $500.

'The Old Rugged Cross' Lyrics:

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross
The emblem of suffering and shame
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain

So I'll cherish the old rugged cross (rugged cross)
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it someday for a crown

To the old rugged cross, I will ever be true
Its shame and reproach gladly bear
Then he'll call me someday to my home far away
Where his glory forever I'll share

And I'll cherish the old rugged cross (rugged cross)
Till my trophies at last I lay down
And I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it someday for a crown
I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it someday for a crown

Now Watch: Dolly Parton's Siblings: Then and Now

recommended for you

'The Old Rugged Cross': The Story Behind the Country-Gospel Standard