The Meaning Behind Vince Gill’s Grief-Ridden “Go Rest High on That Mountain”

Vince Gill‘s “Go Rest High on That Mountain” strikes a particular chord. It bypasses the ears and cuts straight to the heart. Anyone feeling the pain of grief will find a special kind of solace in this track.

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Gill has never been afraid to inject his faith into his music–with this song being a particularly moving example of that practice. Many country fans will know this song inside and out, but if you aren’t aware of the inspiration behind this powerful hit, find out below.

[RELATED: Vince Gill Dedicates Tear-Jerking Performance To Toby Keith and Blake Shelton’s Late Brother]

Behind the Meaning of “Go Rest High on That Mountain”

Gill started writing this song in the late ’80s, deeply moved by the death of his fellow country singer, Keith Whitley. The “When You Say Nothing At All” singer succumbed to alcohol poisoning on May 9, 1989. Whitley’s struggle with alcoholism is detailed in the opening lines of this song. I know your life on earth was troubled / And only you could know the pain, Gill sings.

Despite clearly having a once-in-a-generation song on his hands, Gill shelved “Go Rest High on That Mountain” until 1993, when his brother died of a heart attack. Having weathered another heartbreaking death, Gill picked this song back up.

So go rest high on that mountain
Son, your work on earth is done
Go to heaven a-shoutin’
Love for the Father and the Son

Because of his faith, Gill believes loved ones who pass on will find a new life in heaven. He makes that point very clear in the chorus. While “Go Rest High on That Mountain” certainly has a somber foundation, there is something jovial and celebratory in the chorus–which is the function of every great gospel song, after all.

Decades after the original release of “Go Rest High on That Mountain,” Gill added a third verse to this song. The additional lyrics were debuted during one of his Christmas shows at the Ryman Auditorium in 2019. The new lines add even more religious vernacular to this track.

You’re safely home in the arms of Jesus
Eternal life, my brother’s found
The day will come, I know I’ll see you
That sacred place on that Holy ground

Gill wrote this song as a way to process his own bereavement. “I wrote this song, and I didn’t have any idea if anybody would want to hear it, or like it,” he once said. “All I wanted to do was grieve for [my brother] and celebrate his life.”

Despite Gill’s relatively small scope while writing “Go Rest High on That Mountain,” it has no doubt become a staple country hit and an assuage for many grieving fans. Revisit the track, below.

(Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

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