Amazing Grace: The Roots of a Folk Classic

The Origins of Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace is one of the most beloved and recognizable folk songs in the world. Its lyrics and message of redemption have resonated with people for over two centuries. John Newton, a former slave trader turned Anglican minister, wrote the hymn in 1773. According to legend, he was inspired to write it after he experienced a spiritual epiphany during a violent storm at sea. Although Newton never explicitly stated what happened during the storm, he described it as a turning point in his life.

The original version of Amazing Grace had six verses, each detailing a different aspect of Newton's spiritual journey. The first verse, which is the most famous, goes like this: "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 quickly became popular among evangelical Christians in England and America. It was often sung at revivals and camp meetings, and its message of forgiveness and salvation resonated with many people. In the years that followed, different versions of the hymn were published, and it was translated into many languages. Today, Amazing Grace is considered one of the greatest hymns of all time.

Amazing Grace in Popular Culture

Over the years, Amazing Grace has been adapted and reinterpreted by many different artists, in many different styles. It has been recorded by everyone from Aretha Franklin to Johnny Cash to Elvis Presley. It's been played on the bagpipes at funerals, and it's been featured in movies and TV shows.


Perhaps the most famous rendition of Amazing Grace is the one performed by Judy Collins on her 1970 album Whales and Nightingales. Collins' version features a hauntingly beautiful arrangement, complete with acoustic guitar, dulcimer, and a chorus of backup singers. Since then, many other artists have covered the song, bringing their own unique styles to the timeless classic.

In recent years, the song has been used in various ways to raise money for charitable causes. In 2005, a group of musicians recorded a version of Amazing Grace to raise funds for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Similarly, in 2010, a group of musicians recorded a version of the song to raise funds for the victims of the Haiti earthquake. The song has also been used in countless benefit concerts and fundraising events, cementing its place as a powerful force for good in the world.

Movies and TV

Amazing Grace has been featured in many movies and TV shows over the years. In the movie Amazing Grace, which tells the story of William Wilberforce's campaign to abolish slavery in England, the hymn is sung multiple times by various characters. The song is also featured in the movies Pearl Harbor, The Muppets, and Daddy Day Care, to name just a few.

In TV, the song has also been used in many different contexts. It was featured prominently in the TV show The Newsroom, where it was used to great effect in a scene about the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. In the popular crime drama The Blacklist, the song was used as a haunting background track to a gruesome murder scene.

The Legacy of Amazing Grace

Today, Amazing Grace remains one of the most beloved and enduring folk songs in the world. Its message of redemption and salvation continues to inspire people from all walks of life and all creeds. It has been used to promote charitable causes, raise awareness about social injustices, and provide comfort in times of sorrow. And it has become an important part of the cultural fabric of many countries around the world.

As we look to the future, it's clear that Amazing Grace will continue to play an important role in our lives and our cultural history. Its timeless message of hope and grace will continue to resonate with people for generations to come.