Listen to the beginner piano arrangement of The Old Rugged Cross.
As a Methodist evangelist, George Bennard wrote the first verse of “The Old Rugged Cross” in Albion, Michigan, in the fall of 1912 after he was ridiculed during a revival meeting. Several days later he completed it and sang it as a duet at another one of his meetings. Published in 1915, the song was popularized during Billy Sunday evangelistic campaigns by two members of his campaign staff, Homer Rodeheaver and Virginia Asher, who were perhaps also the first to record it in 1921.
The Old Rugged Cross uses a sentimental popular song form with a verse/chorus pattern in 6/8 time, and it speaks of the writer’s adoration of Christ and His sacrifice at Calvary. Bennard retired to Reed City, Michigan, and the town maintains a museum dedicated to his life and ministry.
“The Old Rugged Cross” has been a country gospel favorite ever since it became the title song of Ernest Tubb’s 1952 gospel album. It has been performed by some of the twentieth century’s most important recording artists.