Born in Massachusetts, Oliver Holden served in the Revolutionary War and was a carpenter after the war, rebuilding the city of Charlestown, Massachusetts and becoming a prominent figure there. Not only did he found his own church and serve as minister in Charlestown, he also was a town official and Massachusetts representative in the state government.
In 1783, Holden had a few months of musical training and then began his own singing school later that year. As a composer, he was fairly conservative, contributing to the pro-European Massachusetts Compiler of Theoretical and Practical Elements of Sacred Vocal Music (1795). He is most famous for his "Coronation" hymn, deemed the oldest American hymn that is still popular today. Holden also composed A Dirge, or Sepulchral Service for the memorial service of George Washington in 1800.