Encore Series #2: Medals, Crowns, and Trophies

This post is part of the Encore Series, posts highlighting Southern Gospel songs of the past that should be brought back. When I launched the Encore Series, this was part of my original short list of six songs that spurred the concept.

Unless you are a longtime Nelons fan, chances are you’ve never heard the song “Medals, Crowns, and Trophies.” And that’s a shame.

The Nelons cut the song on their Get Ready project in 1988. But the group’s vocal prowess—on par with the best in that era—is only one-third of the forumula that makes the song a classic. The other two thirds are the producer, Lari Goss, and the songwriting team, Phil & Carolyn Cross. Goss and the Crosses were fresh off the success of the previous year’s blockbuster radio hit “Champion of Love” (Cathedrals).

The similarities don’t end with the songwriting / production team or the arrangements: Both songs are based on a metaphor, and “Medals, Crowns and Trophies” uses a metaphor at least as stirring. “Champion of Love” is overtly based on the metaphor of a wrestling match—a sport not followed by most Southern Gospel fans—while “Medals, Crowns, and Trophies” is based, albeit more subtly, on the more familiar metaphor of a race.

This song was a big ballad back when a Lari Goss big ballad was the new thing, long before an era where many try and few succeed at even coming close to the skills of the dean of Southern Gospel orchestration. The arrangement can actually be heard on YouTube here, though with one vocal change. On the album version, Kelly Nelon sings both verses, while on the otherwise unreleased version found on YouTube, Jerry Thompson sings the first verse.

Especially compared to its far more famous cousin, “Medals, Crowns, and Trophies” is largely forgotten. But it shouldn’t be.

Group Suggestion: Greater Vision. We already know that Gerald Wolfe’s voice is a perfect fit for delivering a Cross song of that era. And in the hands of the same producer, the song would be as good as new—or, likely enough, even better.

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  1. That is a good suggestion, Daniel. I think GV would be an obvious choice for this song that I’ve loved for years. If I were going to pick a mixed group to sing it, I think that the Hoppers or Perrys would be a good choice. I can hear both Kim and Libbi delivering very effective performances, especially on the verses and the bridge. I think this is one of my all-time favorite Phil Cross songs.

    • Yes, Kim and Libbi would both be great picks, too.

      The Hoppers’ and to a lesser extent the Perrys’ versions would be closer to the original. I thought I’d work on coming up with something more different. And there’s just something about that song that has “Gerald Wolfe” written all over it!

  2. Daniel, the sport referenced in Champion is much more likely to be boxing than wrestling. Most of the lines in it clearly point to that. I will check the other song out though! Thanks.

    • I’m sure you’re right; I just didn’t follow sports closely enough to know!

  3. champion of love wasn’t about a wrestling match…it was about a boxing match…i asked phil cross about it once.