#4 Amazing Grace Part 1

Posted by Barry Barrios on

“Amazing Grace”
by John Newton
The United Methodist Hymnal, 378
Faith’s Review and Expectation.—I Chron. xvii. 16, 17.

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.

“Amazing Grace” resides in a sphere of public awareness that few hymns can claim. Some think it is a folk song. Many would be surprised to find that it is an eighteenth-century hymn. Hymnary.org lists more than 1,200 hymnals in which the hymn appears. By comparison, Joseph Mohr’s (1792-1848) “Silent Night” appears in 536 hymnals. Its rivals for use in hymnals include “Holy, Holy, Holy” by Reginald Heber (1783-1826), found in more 1,400 hymnals, and Charles Wesley’s (1707-1788) “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” found in more than 1,500 hymnals. The difference is that Heber’s and Wesley’s hymns, though popular, would not be known and sung so broadly and in so many musical styles beyond Christian worship as Newton’s hymn has been. For example, few hymns have made the Top 10 Hits list, as “Amazing Grace” did in 1971 when Judy Collins recorded it in a somber hymn-like style as the theme song on her album by the same name (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAfOdXbFir0). The Bill Moyers PBS production on Amazing Grace (1990) explored many dimensions of the hymn and its imprint on culture at large.

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