Country Music

Randy Travis and Josh Turner Collaborate on ‘Three Wooden Crosses

“Three Wooden Crosses” is a significant song in the career of Randy Travis. Released in 2002, it marked a triumphant return to the top of the charts for Travis, who hadn’t had a No. 1 hit in almost a decade. This song stood out not only as a country music hit but also as a gospel classic. It was released through a collaboration between Warner Bros Nashville and Word Records, with the latter being the first Christian label to have a single reach No. 1 on the country charts. The emotional depth and themes of faith and redemption in “Three Wooden Crosses” have resonated with listeners since its release.

The song was crafted by songwriters Kim Williams and Doug Johnson. Johnson conceived the idea of the song’s central characters – a farmer, a teacher, a preacher, and a hooker – on their way to Mexico. He found inspiration in the unusual grouping of characters and developed the first verse and melody from there. When Johnson pitched the song to Kim Williams, they both felt they had something special. Williams was particularly struck by the song’s opening lines and was eager to see where the story would lead.

In developing the song, Williams and Johnson decided which character would survive the story to have the most impact on listeners. They chose the hooker, aligning with the song’s themes of forgiveness and mercy. The character’s survival was meant to convey messages of mercy and the redemption of outcasts through love. Randy Travis’s rendition of the song on his 2002 album “Rise and Shine” received immense popularity. It became his 16th No. 1 hit and won Song of the Year at the CMA Awards and the Dove Awards.

“Three Wooden Crosses” has since become one of Randy Travis’s signature songs. In 2009, he even named a compilation album of his greatest hits after the song. The song’s impact extended beyond Travis’s own performances. Various artists have covered “Three Wooden Crosses” over the years, including Josh Turner. Turner’s rendition adds his unique style to the classic, further cementing the song’s place in country and gospel music history​.

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