“Softly and Tenderly,” though given a heartfelt rendition by Alan Jackson on his 2006 album “Precious Memories,” boasts a history far exceeding the realm of country music.

The origins of the hymn trace back to 1880 and a Methodist minister named Will L. Thompson. Faced with the challenges of the frontier and a yearning to bring people to faith, Thompson penned the lyrics with a message of comfort and hope. The simple, yet powerful, imagery of Jesus calling “Softly and tenderly” resonated with congregations, and the song quickly gained popularity.

Throughout the 20th century, “Softly and Tenderly” remained a staple in Protestant hymnals, sung at countless church services, revivals, and funerals. Its enduring message of God’s forgiveness and everlasting love transcends denomination, making it a beloved song across various Christian traditions.

Alan Jackson’s inclusion of “Softly and Tenderly” on “Precious Memories,” his first gospel album, brought the hymn to a new audience. Jackson’s smooth vocals and signature country instrumentation lend a warm intimacy to the song, preserving the sincerity of the original message while introducing it to a new generation.

So, as we hear the opening strains of “Softly and Tenderly,” we’re not just listening to a country song. We’re connecting with over a century of faith and tradition, a testament to the enduring power of gospel music to speak to the hearts of all.