What Is the Randy Travis Song “Three Wooden Crosses” About?

The Randy Travis song “Three Wooden Crosses” tells the story of four passengers on a bus trip to Mexico that proves fatal for three of them. The end of the song reveals that the narrator is the adult child of the fourth passenger. The song’s four passengers are a farmer, a teacher, a preacher and a prostitute. The three crosses are roadside memorials to the vehicle accident victims and symbolic images referencing Christ’s crucifixion.

The repeated chorus of the song indicates that what you leave behind in life matters more than what you take. In one verse of the song, the dying preacher hands his bloodstained Bible to the prostitute, presumably to offer an invitation of Christian salvation in the face of death. At the end of the song, the narrator shares that he still has the Bible and that his mother read it to him as he grew up, leading him to become a preacher. This also reveals that the prostitute survived, answering the song’s repeated question about why there were only three crosses and not four.

Kim Williams and Doug Johnson wrote the song, and Randy Travis recorded and released it on his 2002 gospel album “Rise and Shine.” The recording became Travis’ 16th number one single and won the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year for 2003. A beautiful tribute to faith and redemption, the song was the first ever gospel record label song to reach the top of the country music charts.