'Amazing Grace' one of the most popular songs of all time'Amazing Grace' is one of the most popular Gosel/Christian songs of all time, written by John Newton in 1772. This song is one of the most performed by various music and vocal groups, bands. In 2006 an 'Amazing Grace' motion picture was filmed and produced.
Amazing Grace owes its creation to a key experience of its author John Newton, who was the captain of a slave ship. After he was in severe distress on May 10, 1748 and saved after invoking God's mercy, he first treated the slaves more humanly. After a few years, he even gave up his job altogether, instead becoming a clergyman and working with William Wilberforce to fight slavery.
Melody and Piano Sheet MusicThe melody known today worldwide, the so-called New Britain, first appeared in a hymn book from 1831, the Virginia Harmony. It is pentatonic and is said to go back to US or British roots, but is also attributed to James P. Carrell and David S. Clayton. The original text originally sung to the melody is lost today. The text usually sung by John Newton today is occasionally sung with another melody, the Old Regular Baptist, created in Kentucky in 1958.
The aftermath is particularly significant in the harmonization offered by the Southern Harmony hymnal of 1835. The characteristic setting for this hymn book, in which the main melody is in the middle part and is accompanied by a lower and lower sung voice, can still be found in American music for vocal trios and has become particularly well known for the style of Andrews Sisters.
Impact & historyAmazing Grace enjoyed great popularity with both parties of the American Civil War and with the Indians. The Cherokee is even considered an unofficial national anthem, since during the notorious path of tears in 1838 they often buried their dead due to lack of time without a great ceremony, but only by singing Amazing Grace. The song is still played and sung frequently at funerals or memorial events, such as in 2004 on the occasion of the funeral of former US President Ronald Reagan and in 2015 on the occasion of the memorial service to the victims of the Charleston attack.
Although the hymn came from a Euro-American involved in the slave trade, Amazing Grace was adopted by the African-American spiritual and gospel scene. It was interpreted by the Blind Boys of Alabama as well as by Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin or the Montreal Jubiliation Gospel Choir and the Harlem Gospel Choir. Today Amazing Grace is one of the most popular hymns in the world and is sung by members of various Christian denominations. The piece is also considered a protest song against slavery and an anthem by Christian and non-Christian human rights activists.
In the 1960s, the song, which was originally distributed almost exclusively in the USA, reached the British Isles. There Amazing Grace became particularly popular in bagpipe versions, also because musicians in the course of the folk revival increasingly focused on the traditional melodies and songs. That is why there are numerous instrumental versions, in particular of Scottish Highlanders, of which the most commercially successful is from the military band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, which was even number 1 on the UK sales charts in 1972.
Up until Arthur Penn's 1969 film Arthur’s Restaurant, the song was somewhat unknown outside of churches and folk festivals. In 1972 it won wide circulation under the title How the light after the night, sung by Siegfried Fietz in free church and evangelical congregations with a text transmission by Renate Wagner.
Over the course of time, the song has been edited many times and interpreted by a multitude of artists that can hardly be overlooked. Among them are Meryl Streep (1983 in her film Silkwood), Connie Francis, Ray Price, Vera Lynn, Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, Judy Collins, Hayley Westenra, Johnny Cash, Yes, Rod Stewart, Willie Nelson, George Jones, Groundhogs, Vicky Leandros, Lena Valaitis (1976), Helmut Lotti, Die Flippers (1991), Ireen Sheer, David Hasselhoff, André Rieu, The Priests, Céline Dion, Steve Morse, Nana Mouskouri, Charlotte Church, LeAnn Rimes as well as Katie Melua and Jessye Norman. In 1985 Joan Baez opened her contribution to the legendary Live Aid concert in aid of hunger relief in Africa with a performance of Amazing Grace. Mike Oldfield used the text with a new melody on his album The Millennium Bell and at the concert at the Berlin Victory Column at the turn of the year 1999/2000. There are also punk (Dropkick-Murphys) and heavy metal versions (Stryper). At the memorial service for the victims of the Charleston attack, in which nine African Americans were killed on June 17, 2015, US President Barack Obama sang the song. The hymn "light on my star Borussia" of the football club Borussia Dortmund is also based on "Amazing Grace".
The song has also become a jazz standard. But the title that Louis Armstrong introduced to jazz, which is often heard in the marching bands of New Orleans jazz and in Dixieland, is rarely played in modern jazz. Interpretations by Herbie Mann, Archie Shepp, David Murray and Cassandra Wilson are worth highlighting here. Diane Schuur and Gabrielle Goodman also sang the song in a jazz context; bass player Victor Wooten has released a bass version of the title. Composer Ben Johnston, an important representative of Extended Just Intonation, designed his 4th string quartet Ascent. Amazing Grace as a large, over ten-minute variation in pure mood about the song.