Whether it's an emotional song that starts in heartache or a song full of hope about things to come, the country genre has never shied away from songs about life after death. Below, The Boot counts down the 10 best country songs about Heaven.
Gretchen Peters wrote "If Heaven," which Griggs included on his final album for RCA, This I Gotta See. The song, which says"If heaven was a town, it would be my town / On a summer day in 1985 / And everything I wanted was out there waitin'/ And everyone i loved was still alive / Don't cry a tear for me now, baby / There comes a time we all must say goodbye / And if that's what Heaven's made of / You know what? I ain't afraid to die," became Griggs final Top 5 hit.
"I'd had the verses pretty much written for a long, long time, but struggled a lot with the chorus," Peters shares. "I felt like these verses were very much just a folk song -- just a simple folk song. And I thought even for a while, 'Well, if it's a folk song, maybe it doesn't need a chorus -- maybe it's just this.' And I just struggled with the chorus for a long time. And, finally, it came to me that it was just as simple as saying 'If that's what Heaven's made of, I'm not afraid to die.'"
Campbell wrote "Outskirts of Heaven" with Dave Turnbull after reading a passage in the Bible describing Heaven and realizing he wanted his Heaven to have "dirt roads for miles" and "dogwood trees and honey bees" instead of what's promised in the Scripture.
"If you read the Book of Revelation, it tells you that there’s golden streets and pearly gates and a very big city, which is not the environment I grew up in," Campbell tells The Boot. "I can’t imagine myself living in any big city, Heaven or not. So I’m excited to get to Heaven, but I feel like what I describe in "Outskirts of Heaven" is more my style."
In this heart-wrenching story of a mother saying a final goodbye to her little girl, Austin perfectly captures the emotions of a parent ready to bid a last farewell. With lines such as "Don't you know, one day / She'll be your little girl forever / But right now, I need her so much more / She's too young to be on her own / Barely just turned seven / So who will hold her hand when she crosses / The streets of Heaven?" the song became Austin's highest-charting hit to date.
It was Gill's wife, Amy Grant, who first started writing "Threaten Me With Heaven" after visiting her former father-in-law, who was gravely ill. After listening to the doctor, the elderly man said, according to Grant, "Well, what are they going to do? Threaten me with Heaven?"
Grant, Dillon O'Brien and Will Owsley began writing "Threaten Me With Heaven," but they invited Gill to help them finish it. Sadly, Owsley, who was also Grant's guitar player, took his life one year before Gill included the song on his 2011 album Guitar Slinger.
"Wish You Were Here" was Mark Wills' first No. 1 hit, and with good reason: The heartbreaking song, about a man who died in a plane crash, includes lines such as "Wish you were here, wish you could see this place / Wish you were near, I wish I could touch your face / The weather's nice, it's paradise" -- words written to the narrator's significant other on a postcard, which she receives after he dies. Skip Ewing, Bill Anderson and Debbie More penned the tune, which also landed in the Top 40 on the pop charts.
"Love, Me" is Raye's second single from his debut album, All I Can Be, and his first No. 1 hit. Written by Skip Ewing and Max T. Barnes, the song covers a heartwarming romance from young love to last breath. Lines such as "But I'm not gonna let you down / Darling, wait and see / And between now and then, 'til I see you again / I'll be loving you / Love, me" earned Raye a spot as one of country music's best balladeers, and make the song still a favorite more than 25 years later.
The first platinum-selling hit of Moore's career, "If Heaven't Wasn't So Far Away" shows a tender side of Moore not seen in any of his previous hits. Thanks to lines such as "If Heaven wasn't so far away / I'd pack up the kids and go for the day / Introduce them to their grandpa / Watch 'em laugh at the way he talks," Moore knew the song was one that would resonate with him even when he heard it on an earlier Rhett Akins album, People Like Me.
"I remember telling some people awhile back that I loved that song," Moore tells The Boot. "We had the whole album cut and we were going through stuff to pick a first single, and my producer happened to see a clip on YouTube. He said, 'Remember, you liked this song awhile back?' I was like, 'Oh my gosh!' It was something that fell from the sky, going, 'You need to cut this song!'"
Wariner co-wrote "Holes in the Floor of Heaven" with Billy Kirsch, although it may not have happened without the help of their wives.
"[My wife Karen] hears us talking in the living room," Wariner recalls to Nashville's Tennessean, "and she says, 'You guys have never written a story-type song, like a real, true story song. Why don’t you guys maybe go down that road a moment?”
It was Kirsch's wife, Julie, who gave her husband the title "Holes in the Floor of Heaven," but it was the guys who wrote the emotional tune. The song, which says, "Seasons come and seasons go, nothing stays the same / I grew up, fell in love, met a girl who took my name / Year by year, we made a life in this sleepy little town / I thought we'd grow old together, Lord, I sure do miss her now / But there's holes in the floor of Heaven / And her tears are pouring down," earned Wariner both a CMA and an ACM for Song of the Year.
"I Believe" was Diamond Rio's fifth, and last (at least so far), No. 1 hit. The song, written by Skip Ewing and Donny Kees, gives hope to those still waiting to cross over to the other side: "Now, when you die, your life goes on / It doesn't end here when you're gone," the songs lyrics say. "Every soul is filled with light / It never ends, and if I'm right / Our love can even reach across eternity / I believe, oh, I believe." "I Believe" was nominated for Best Country Performance By a Duo or Group With Vocal at the Grammy Awards.
Dolly Parton joins Paisley on the vocals of "When I Get Where I'm Going." The tender song, which says, "I'm gonna walk with my granddaddy / And he'll match me step for step / And I'll tell him how I missed him / Every minute since he left / Then I'll hug his neck," was one of only a handful of songs on Paisley's Time Well Wasted album that he didn't write. In 2015, Paisley tearfully sang the song at the funeral for Little Jimmy Dickens.