The Story Behind "Amazing Grace."
("Faiths Review and Expectation")
"Amazing Grace" is an amazing song. Written by a drunk, murderer, and slave boat captain, it sings like a quiet prayer.
John Newton (1725-1807) was born in London, England, and was by his own admission a human "wretch." On May 10th, 1748, while transporting slaves from Africa, John's horrid little slave ship was struck by a violent storm. As the ship threatened to flounder, John prayed for deliverance and was touched by the irresistible hand of God. Saved from the storm, God's grace transformed John's life.
He left the profitable business of slave trading for a lesser paying job surveying the tides in England. But most importantly, John became a leading voice in the British anti-slavery movement. Much of what we know today about the slave trade in the 1700s we learned from John Newton's journals and anti-slavery writings. As John grew in faith, he joined the Church of England, became an ordained minister, and devoted the last forty-four years of his life to God.
In 1780 he was appointed the rector of the church in St. Mary Woolnoth London, England. William Wilberforce, an obscure member of the British parliament, joined Rev. Newton's congregation, heard his sermons, was moved and became his enthusiastic follower. With Rev. Newton's advice and spiritual support, William Wilberforce led the successful political movement to abolish the slave trade in England. Wilberforce University near Dayton, Ohio, is named for him.
Written in 1772, John Newton's song "Amazing Grace" has been recorded in virtually every language. Originally titled "Faiths Review and Expectation," it has been the subject of newspaper articles, books, television specials, and a movie starring Albert Finney as John Newton. Click here
"Amazing Grace" has the amazing ability to strengthen us when our faith weakens or comfort us in times of grief. "Amazing Grace" is performed in churches throughout the world as a pledge of Christian devotion. It was sung by soldiers on both sides of the American civil war and by protestors during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It was sung in Africa when Nelson Mandela was released from prison, in Germany as the Berlin wall tumbled down, and it consoled Americans during the sad days following 9/11. It is a beautiful celebration of God's grace and His power to transform the most despicable lives. Even to change the heart of a man who sold slaves.
People worldwide are still stirred by the moving music, touching tones, and healing lyrics of "Amazing Grace." The rendition below is particularly inspiring. It is by II DIVO and performed at the ancient ruins of the Roman Coliseum, the very site where thousands of Christians were murdered nineteen hundred years ago.
The Rev. John Newton's epitaph:
JOHN NEWTON, Clerk [preacher]
Once an infidel and libertine
A servant of slaves in Africa,
Was, by the rich mercy
of our Lord and Saviour
restored, pardoned and
appointed to preach
the Gospel which he had
long laboured to destroy.
Near sixteen years in Olney, in Bucks,
And twenty-eight years in this Church.
Turn up your speakers (especially at 2:57 into the performance).
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we'd first begun.
Another rendition performed by Judy Collins with the Boston Pops Orchestra
The amazing Mahalia Jackson
Andrea Bocelli An amazing performance in Central Park, New York
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Wife sings to her dying husband
Joan Baez live
Aretha Franklin sings at the White House
Yet another version by Willie Nelson
The Hope Gospel Singers
The Twelve Strings Gospel Choir
From the movie "Braveheart" with bagpipes
Eskimo-Aleut (Susan Aglukark), perhaps the most unique rendition
Native American, hauntingly beautiful sung in Cherokee by Waleda
Native American, another .46 second version
Amazing Grace played on Native American flute by Jay Red Eagle.
From South Africa without microphones or musical instruments
From the Philippines
From Warsaw, Poland
From London, England the ST. Philips Boys Choir AKA "Angel Voices"
Vienna Choir Boys
Karol Gott from the Czech Republic
From New Zealand, Hayley Westenra
From Greece, Nana Mouskouri
Hungarian Katica Illenyi
Korean American Rose Jang
From the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany by Amadea Dorothea
Ronan Tynan at Ronald Reagan's funeral
The Irish Rovers
Welsh singer Charlotte Church
Andre Rieu & The European Pipe Band
Andre Rieu & Australian Pipe Band performed in Germany
BROTHER - Celtic Tribal Band
Played on the harmonica by Shirley Caesar and Terry McMillan
Amazing Grace New Age Version on the harmonica
By Lee Oskar
Hillbilly Amazing Grace Jam
On Dulcimer by North Carolina "hillbillies"
On the C harp
On the piano
Young Declan Galbraith
Colleen Collister at St. Paul's Cathedral, London, England.
From Estes Park, Colorado during the 2006 Highlands Festival
The Great Scots Pipes and Drums Band of Polson Montana
Pops Around The World Concert in Houston Texas
The Blind Boys From Alabama with a very touching version
A police drum corps in Dallas Texas
From Boston, Mass. The Red Sox favorite band, The Drop Kick Murphy's
The beautiful voice of Yolanda Adams
Eternal "Amazing Grace"
Sweet little two year old Zoei Toh in 2007
Seven year old Danielle Williams in 2009
Ten year old Melissa in 2008.
low56got7 on bagpipes
On pipe organ
FSU Brass Machine 2008
Mary J. Blige and friends
The deep voice of Randy Travis
The late great Ray Charles
Boyz to Men
Carlos Santana /Jeff Beck
.41 seconds of John Legend
The Tenors & Natalie Grant
Leann Rimes, one of my favorite versions
George Jones & Vestal Goodman
A very emotional version by The Kelly Family from 1989
Coral Brasil Ensemble Jazz choir
A little bit of rock version
Boogie Woogie Amazing Grace
Amazing Grace with a blues baseline
Free Jazz Grace
Amazing Grace Medley with virtual puppets
Amazing Grace as you've never heard it
Amazing grace Maverick Choir from Mel Gibson's movie.
Magee Chamber Choir Choral Reflections on Amazing Grace
The Cactus Cuties sing Amazing Grace
Jeff Beck Amazing Grace instrumental
LET ME KNOW YOUR FAVORITE.
JUDY COLLINS - 1991 Interview about "Amazing Grace" with Charles Gibson.