Elvis Presleys rendition of "How Great Thou Art", a Christian hymn written in the 19th century, is a song which does often bring me close to weakness. Both the lyrics and more prominently the delivery fill one with humility and humble ones senses. In later renditions of the song, though not in the sample below, it starts off entirely vocal. A singular note comprises its first few seconds, simply the drawn out line, "Oh Lord,". Its as if when sung, one is requesting Gods presence and attention. It is soon followed by the exhaled "My God...", and these lines,
Which are beautiful and eloquent, but yet, not the most. Praise of the majestic, all-consuming power and might of God, and a several short lines from the Chorus succeed them. It feels as if up until this point, the tone has been rising and rising, as if to meet just a fraction of the complete majesty of Christ, and the next lines, sung with an even steeper rising tone, precede its percieved climax.
Now to this, the tone has risen to its seeming penultimate point in his rendition, until now, all lines were of humble praise, sung as if listing a Nobles many titles. Finally succeeding them, is the namesake of the song, sung almost with a quiver, having plummeted from a ever-rising praise to the humble statement,
When sung, it seems as though one has hit a point of utter lowness before God, bowed to the ground in complete submission and humility, embraced by his warmth. Every climb in note, every succeeding line up until the statement, was sung with the expectation of a new high, a climax of all-encompassing glory, but it is the opposite, the song reaches its lowest point. In Elvis's singing, this is only faintly apparent.
The meaning which I have extrapolated from the work is subtle, yet nonetheless real. This song, to me, parallels the spiritual journey of the person who devotes themselves to God. The eager naivety, expectations of glory, the excitement for a grand reveal, and the truth, which is that in every faithful soul, in its center, is the humble, quiet, submission to God. It is simple, using only a few instruments and one mans voice, but yet, it captures so perfectly to me, the soul of a good gospel song.
The rest of the song varies by rendition, but these simple few lines which open it are what merit its high place in my regard.