The song “Go Rest High on That Mountain” is a beautiful and emotional ballad written by Vince Gill to honor the death of his brother Bob Coen in 1993. Though filled with sadness, it also expresses the hope that his brother has found peace in the afterlife. The song was hugely successful upon its release, earning Gill Grammy Awards for Best Country Song and Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1995. Its timeless themes of love, loss, grief, and hope continue to resonate with listeners today.
About the Songwriter – Vince Gill
Vince Gill is an American country singer, songwriter and musician. Some key facts about his background:
- Born April 12, 1957 in Oklahoma
- Began playing guitar as a teenager and joined country rock band Mountain Smoke in the 1970s
- After Mountain Smoke disbanded, Gill pursued a solo career in the 1980s
- Signed with RCA Records in 1984 and released his debut album Turn Me Loose
- Has since released numerous hit albums and won 20 Grammy Awards
- Known for emotional ballads and songs anchored in traditional country roots
- Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007
So by the early 1990s when Gill wrote “Go Rest High on That Mountain,” he was already an established star in country music with a reputation as an eloquent songwriter.
Inspiration for the Song
In 1993, Vince Gill received devastating news that his half brother Bob Coen had died at age 38 from a drug overdose. Coen had struggled with substance abuse and issues for years. His death hit Gill extremely hard.
As a way to cope with his grief, Gill began writing a song in memory of his brother. Though they were not close for much of their lives due to the age gap, there was still a strong familial bond. Gill channeled his sadness into the lyrics of what would become “Go Rest High on That Mountain.”
I know your life on earth was troubled
And only you could know the pain
You weren’t afraid to face the devil
You were no stranger to the rain
The song imagines his brother finally at peace in heaven after his difficulties on earth. He pictures Bob “resting high on that mountain” and assures him that the pain and sorrows are gone.
Recording and Release
Gill recorded “Go Rest High on That Mountain” in 1994 for his album When Love Finds You. It was released as a single in early 1995.
The recording features acoustic guitar and orchestral backing to supplement Gill’s emotional lead vocal delivery. Fellow country star Patty Loveless provides backing vocals.
Upon release, the song received an overwhelmingly positive response from critics and fans alike. It resonated with many who had experienced their own personal losses.
So rest my brother
I’ll see you when my chores are through
I don’t know much but I know I’ll always love you
It spent two weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart that year. At the 1995 Grammy Awards, Gill won Best Country Song for writing the track and Best Male Country Vocal for his performance.
Legacy and Impact
Since its release, “Go Rest High on That Mountain” has become a modern country classic. Its simple but eloquent lyrics about love and loss are universally relatable.
Notable covers of the song include:
- A duet version by Gill and Alison Krauss which won the CMA Award for Vocal Event of the Year in 2016
- Dolly Parton’s recording for her album For God and Country
- The Petersens featuring Ricky Skaggs on their Mountain Top album
The song is often featured at funerals and memorial services due to its message of finding peace in the afterlife. While filled with grief, it also exudes hope.
For Vince Gill, “Go Rest High on That Mountain” represented not only a tribute to his brother, but also for countless others who have lost loved ones. Its timeless words of healing continue to resonate decades after it was written.
In summary, “Go Rest High on That Mountain” is one of country music’s most beloved ballads. Singer-songwriter Vince Gill wrote it as a way to cope with losing his half-brother Bob Coen to substance abuse in 1993. Though Gill and his brother were not close for much of their lives, there was still a strong bond. The song imagines Coen finally at peace in heaven after his troubles on earth. Since its release, “Go Rest High on That Mountain” has won major awards and become a staple at memorial services. For over 25 years, its simple but eloquent lyrics about love, loss and hope have provided comfort to many. Though inspired by personal tragedy, the song’s message is universally relatable. Vince Gill’s ballad remains a timeless country classic that touches the heart.