When Keith Whitley died 30 years ago this month on May 9th, 1989, Vince Gill was inspired to honor the Kentucky country singer’s memory by writing a new song. It became “Go Rest High on That Mountain,” which Gill completed four years later after the death of his older brother Bob. Since then, it’s become a staple at funerals, especially in the country music world, with Gill famously performing a voice-cracking rendition at a ceremony for George Jones in 2013.
On Monday night’s episode of The Voice, contestant Rod Stokes offered his own version, favoring drama and grit over Gill’s subdued falsetto in the hope that it’ll advance him forward from the Top 8 semi-final. Stokes, a Mississippi native, is a member of Kelly Clarkson’s team.
“Go Rest High on That Mountain” originally appeared on Gill’s 1994 album When Love Finds You. In 2014, he reflected on the power of the song and how it’s sometimes misunderstood.
“It’s become about the most used funeral song in the country, and that blows my mind. I wrote it right after my brother died [Gill’s half-brother Bob died in 1993]. I wasn’t going to record it, I didn’t want to. But [When Love Finds You producer] Tony Brown talked me into it. He said, ‘You should get this sentiment on record’ and we did,” Gill told Rolling Stone. “It sounds very, very sad, but the lyric is very uplifting. I don’t think anybody grasped that. They just hear the sadness in it and the intent.”
Last week, Gill previewed his upcoming album Okie by releasing the moving, personal tribute to his mother, “A Letter to My Mama.”