Amazing Grace, How Sweet the History of The Song

John Newton - Amazing Grace

The Birth of Amazing Grace

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.

Thru many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Then when we'd first begun.

Created as a poem in 1772, It hardly seems possible that the lyrics of the most popular hymn in the English language was written by a man who once had the foulest mouth on the ship, Greyhound. John Newton gained notoriety for being one of the most profain men the captain had ever met.

A defiant man, Newton manages again and again to escape danger, disease, abuse and even death. Read here about the life-threatening story which obviously had such a frightening impact, Newton found himself calling on God for mercey. This marked the beginning of his spiritual conversion.

In 1835, the poem was then set to music to a tune known as "New Britain" which is still known today. William Walker is the composer who first joined John Newtons verses to "New Britain" to create the song "Amazing Grace". It first appeared in Walkers Shape Note hynmal "Southern Harmony".

Amazing Grace Was Born on Paper Here

A markerOlney, England -
Olney, Milton Keynes, UK
[get directions]

It was in the town of Olney that Newton would write the words to 'Amazing Grace.'

William Walker - Composer

Beautiful Version of Amazing Grace

A Marriage Made in Heaven

The music behind the words to Amazing Grace was quoted by author, Steve Turner, as a "marriage made in heaven." The rise and fall of the melody to the corresponding lyrics breathe life into the words and stir emotions within the participant.

Knowing the story behind this magnificent song, certainly adds an appreciation that would otherwise go by the wayside.

First appearing in print in the 1779 edition of Olney Hymns, the song "Amazing Grace" has brought words of hope to enslaved people and comfort to mourners for nearly three centuries. The song has been part of the burial of presidents and services for paupers. It has been the cadence for civil rights marches and the theme of human rights campaigns. Penned by John Newton, the words "I once was lost, but now am found" played out in the author's life.

The World's Greatest Singers Have Performed Amazing Grace

The list of well-known singers who have performed Amazing Grace is almost endless. Here are some of the most famous ones.

  • Clint Black
  • Leanne Rimes
  • Whitney Houston
  • Elvis Presley
  • Pavarotti
  • The Three Tenors - Carreras, Domingo, Pavarotti
  • Any Grant
  • Celine Dion
  • Josh Groban
  • Suzan Boyle

Interesting Facts About Amazing Grace

  • Although "Amazing Grace" was recorded by the Byrds in June 1970, the track remained unreleased for thirty years.
  • Joan Baez opened the US Live Aid concert (1985) with a performance of “Amazing Grace” – Around the world Live Aid concerts raised millions for African famine relief.
  • Amazing Grace is the most covered song in history with over 3200 recordings.
  • It is considered the anthem of the Cherokee nation because it was sung on the Trail of Tears during 1838-39.
  • William Walker added the current melody to the lyrics in his 1835 hymnal.
  • There are 972 known musical arrangements of the hymn.
  • The first gospel recording was made in 1926 by Reverend H.R. Romlin.
  • Arlo Guthrie performed Amazing Grace at Woodstock.
  • Between 1970 and 1972 a version of “Amazing Grace” by Judy Collins spent 67 weeks in the singles charts (the record for a female artist) and peaked at number 5.
  • The final stanza " When we've been there 10,000 yrs ", was added by Edwin Othello Excell in 1909 and was taken from another hymn.


Resource: en.Wikipedia,org

Sing Along

Did you sing along with the video?

  • Yes and will do it again
  • Yes but probably won't do it again
  • I watched the video but didn't sing
  • I skipped the video it doesn't interest me
  • If I could sing I would sing along with the video
See results without voting

Final Thoughts

I hope you've found this story of the song "Amazing Grace" enlightening. When we know a little about the background of a song and why it was written the words become more meaningful. So many of us have sung this particular song at least once in our lives. For sure we have heard it often.

The next time you have an opportunity to sing Amazing Grace think of John Newton and William Walker and share in their feelings as you sing these memorable lyrics.

“God sometimes does His work with gentle drizzle, not storms.”

― John Newton, Amazing Grace

More by this Author


Comments 78 comments

jpohl profile image

jpohl 6 years ago from Rockford, IL

Thanks for the information. It is certainly one of those songs that we hear a lot but know little about. You have helped fill in some important gaps of knowledge about the song Amazing Grace


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 6 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

jpohl - Appreciate your comments. And you are so right about this being a song we hear often, but know very little about its history. Thank you.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for such a wonderful information.


geegee77 profile image

geegee77 6 years ago from The Lone Star State!!

I absolutely love this song always have. Thanks for all of the information. Great hub thumbs up!! ge


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 6 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Hello, hello - Very pleased that you liked my article.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you soon.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 6 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

geegee77 - I love this song to. It is performed about 10 million times annually. Appreciate your taking the time to comment. Thanks.


rose56 profile image

rose56 6 years ago

That was the song whan my father past. It was so dear to my heart. Thanks for the info.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 6 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Dear Rose56 - I am so sorry about your fathers passing. I imagine whenever you hear Amazing Grace it brings you memories of that time. Peace and love to you.


yellowstar2000 profile image

yellowstar2000 6 years ago from WestCoast Florida

I love this! Thanks for sharing such a vivid part of history, Amazing Grace also has a soft spot in my heart, and still to this day I get choked up whenever I try to sing it, quite an emotional part of our human history!


yellowstar2000 profile image

yellowstar2000 6 years ago from WestCoast Florida

p.s. I've bookmarked this one :)


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 6 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Yellowstar2000 - I enjoyed writing this hub and appreciate your comments so very much. It means a lot.

As a vocal teacher, I hear Amazing Grace with almost every lesson I teach, as it is the most requested song I get. I never tire of it. Thank you, my friend.


billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago

Thanks for the history - I grew up hearinG amazing Grace and it has special meaning in my family - I have a great Aunt - Grace and yes she was born in Scotland and just loved this song.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 6 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Billy - My grandfather was also born in Scotland and played the bagpipes. I have always wanted to take a trip to the area that I am connected to. I also hear Scotland is beautiful. I often wonder if my Grandpa play Amazing Grace on his bagpipes. Appreciate your comments.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 6 years ago from South Africa

Thank you so much for sharing this info, vocalcoach. Amazing Grace is, I’m sure, the Number One sacral song in the world for ages now. Or can you think of any another song that may be more popular?


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 6 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

MartieCoetser - I think Amazing Grace is the most popular and certainly the most sung of all hymns. I am in the process of recording a piano version of Amazing Grace I hope it will be welcomed by those who love the song. Thank you my friend for commenting. I will return your kindness.


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

Great hub. Amazing Grace is one of my favorites also. We were in Scotland last year about this time, and heard Amazing Grace played on the bagpipes. Our ancestors come from Scotland, and it was very moving to hear it played there.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 6 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

What a wonderful experience for you. To hear this piece played on Bagpipes in Scotland is a dream of mine. My ancestors are also from Scotland. This would be the "Kerr" line. Thank you for your comment.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 6 years ago

....I first heard AMAZING GRACE in a film from 1972 called THE CULPEPPER CATTLE CO. - and it had quite an emotional effect on me - so naturally I love your hub and what you have put into it - bravo to you - and keep nurturing those 'golden' voices .....


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 6 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

epigramman - Thank you, Mr. Wonderful, for your encouragement and for sharing the time you first heard "Amazing Grace".


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

So glad to see Amazing Grace highlighted in a hub. John Newton's story is a wonderful example of God's mercy and grace!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 6 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Thank you RTalloni - It was a pleasure to write about this history of Amazing Grace and John Newton.


Lita C. Malicdem profile image

Lita C. Malicdem 6 years ago from Philippines

Amazing Grace is one of those Christian songs translated in many languages. Very popular song. John Newton may be under God's spell when he wrote this piece. Thanks for sharing the history. We sing the Pangasinan version (Philippines) in our church. I sing the alto 1 part in our choir, and how sweet really is the blending of the song in 3 voices.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 6 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Lita - I have heard the Pangasinan version and it is beautiful when done in three part harmony. The uniting of these harmonics adds more emotional flavor to the song. The major 3rds blending with the minor 3rd is good composition and if a modulation is added it brings a marvelous "lift" to the harmony. Thank you for your comments.


juneaukid profile image

juneaukid 6 years ago from Denver, Colorado

Thank you for this fascinating account. If you haven't seen the movie "I Heard the Owl Call My Name" (Canadian Film Board) about the Kwakuitl Indians of British Columbia, you may want to as "Amazing Grace" is its theme song.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 6 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

juneaukid - I am ecstatic to have your information about this film and will begin looking for it. I have a strong desire to find which tribe I belong to - I was told it was "Blackfoot" but I have no way of proving that. I have such a hunger and thirst to know about my ancestors, My mother was often mistaken for full blooded indian. Anyhow, I thank you so very much for this wonderful film information. Your sister in Peace.


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

How sweet the sound! It saved a wretch like me. I was lost, but now I'm found, I was blind but now I see! Write on Sister vocalcoach!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 6 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Micky Dee - If we could all sing this song and relate. Each day, in one way or the other, we become lost...in our actions, maybe a word said or not said, we get lost in our thoughts as we tend to forget our real purpose here on this earth. Thank you Brother Mickey!


Amber Allen profile image

Amber Allen 5 years ago

Hi Audrey

I had no idea that this song had been written so long ago. The words of this song have definitely stood the test of time. My all time favorite version of this song is by Elvis.

Thank you for writing such an interesting hub for me to find.

Amber:)


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States

Thanks for the history of this beautiful song. It seems that everyone is moved by the sound and lyrics. I used to love the Judy Collins version.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Amber - How are you? I, too like Elvis's version of Amazing Grace. I enjoyed researching the history of this song. Like most of us, I learned so much. Take care Amber. :)


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Dolores - What a delight to see you again! I hope all is well with you. I haven't heard the Judy Collins version of Amazing Grace, but I will check it out. Thanks for your commenting and hope to see you soon. :)


amybradley 5 years ago

I absolutely adore this song one that means a great deal to so many people I know and love. Wonderful of you to share this history of it's origins here with us. I did know this before, but had forgotten all about it until I read this page, thanks again. I really love that this song was written for sinners and came from one itself!! A.B.


hey 5 years ago

luv it


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

hey - Thanks for your comment. Hope you stop by again soon!~


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

A.B. - I sure appreciate your comments and want to thank you for visiting my hubs. I hope to see more of you Amy.

Peace and love...


Silver Poet profile image

Silver Poet 5 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

Awesome hub, and I love that song!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Silver Poet - I appreciate your words of support. And very happy that you liked the song. Take care!


Alladream74 profile image

Alladream74 5 years ago from Oakland, California

Reminds me of the good old school days,hymn practice they called it.We used to sing it occasionally as a school in Zimbabwe.Had no idea about its origins.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Well, that is really something.How wonderful to hear that you sang it in school. You have some fond memories of these times. Thanks.


femmeflashpoint 4 years ago

VC,

I knew the history of the author behind the words, but there was soooo much more I didn't know until I read this.

Beautiful hub!

femme


iamaudraleigh 4 years ago

This is a neat hub! I like the ones on music. It is interesting how many renditions there are of this song! I am also amazed how many people know it! I love Judy Collin! Her album was the first one I ever received. However, I never heard her sing it!/ Celtic Women are mavelous!/ I sang along with the video horribly...lol!!!/ Voted this up...terrific!!!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

femmeflashpoint - There is so much information available about this story. It's all so fascinating. I'm so pleased that you found more info on my hub. Thanks for finding it beautiful!

iamaudraleigh - I really like the celtic women too. One of my favorites. Thanks so much for taking time to read, check out the cideos and comment. Wow. That is so nice. And, hey ... I heard you singing along with the video and you were wonderful!!!!!


iamaudraleigh 4 years ago

LOL...thanks!


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina

Superb coverage on one of the best songs of all time. I love all the versions, even Elvis's. I think the bag pipes are the best. I didn't realize how many versions there actually were. Great hub!


Sueswan 4 years ago

Hi Audrey,

Amazing Grace always tugged at my heartstrings but even more so since it was played by a piper at my dad's memorial service back in 99.

Voted up and away!

Happy 4th of July!


ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

What a lovely tribute to an amazing song. Il Divo is one of my faves, so nice that you could combine the two xx


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK

A wonderful discourse on the hymn and its various versions. I'm glad you included the lyrics as they are so beautiful and deeply moving. The history is something I didn't know of, so thanks for sharing. voted up, of course.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

tammyswallow - I love the bagpipes the best. Reminds me of my grandfather. I'm so glad you appreciate learning a little more about this timeless and amazing song. Thank you!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Dear sueswan - And a happy 4th to you to! The arrangement of Amazing Grace played by a piper at your Dad's memorial service must have been so very beautiful and felt so deeply. Very moving! Thank you my friend for sharing this precious memory. And thanks for your vote.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

ChristyWrites - I'm so glad to know that you are an II Divo fan. These young men are magnificent and really do this beautiful song justice. Thank you for your comments and have I told you how much I enjoy your hubs? :-)


kelleyward 4 years ago

I love this song and it has a rich and wonderful history. Thank you for sharing this fantastic hub! Voted up and shared! Kelley


Levertis Steele profile image

Levertis Steele 4 years ago from Southern Clime

I read AMAZING GRACE some years back, and it showed that Newton was remorseful because of his participation in the exploitation of slaves. I also read a few articles on his journal notes. I got the impression that he knew that slavery was wrong after his conversion began, and I respected him for that. Did I misunderstand?


Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

Wow this is amazing.... i love this song....me and my two sisters..sang this to our sister that was on her death bed....we .......cried....thank you for succh a beautiful hub....debbie


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Hello Docmo - I'm so glad to know that you haven't heard the history of Amazing Grace. The lyrics are so inspiring I had to include them. For me, knowing the background of a song I like makes me appreciate it more. Thanks for your comments and thank you for the vote.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

kelleyward - I never tire of hearing Amazing Grace and I love singing it. So nice of you to come by and give me support Kelley. You are quite amazing yourself!


Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

this is so good I shared on prayer page.. on Facebook.

Debbie


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Levertis Steel - You are absolutely correct. After his conversion it all slowly change for him. He became repentant about his part in slavery issues and he went on to become an advocate for anti-slavery. Thank you for your comments and I appreciate your stopping by.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

It's amazing how many times I have heard and sung Amazing Grace in my life, and it's perhaps the ONE song that I never tire of. It's as if it were sent straight from Heaven. It nearly always gives me chills, especially the beautiful versions you've posted here. Great hub. I enjoyed reading the history of the man who wrote the words. Sharing this one. It's so beautiful.


John Sarkis profile image

John Sarkis 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

I love this vocalcoach, awesome hub.

...come to think about what Victoria just said---she's correct. I always get emotional when I hear "Amazing Grace," so the strong feelings remain no matter how many times I hear it!

Voted up

John


Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

One of my all-time favorite hymns! Thanks for creating a hub to share the story of this wonderful, moving song.


carter06 profile image

carter06 4 years ago from Cronulla NSW

I know the story and the song & they both still inspire me...Voted up & awesome etc...cheers


jennzie profile image

jennzie 4 years ago from Lower Bucks County, PA

Amazing Grace is without a doubt one of the most beautiful songs ever to be made. Voted this up and shared!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Debra Brooks - I couldn't stop my tears as I read your comments. I'm visualizing you and your sisters singing this deeply touching and appropriate song to your other sister as she prepared to cross over to the other side. You are a beautiful person my friend and it's an honor to associate with you here on Hubpages. Blessings to you.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Deborah - Oh thank you for sharing on the Prayer Page on FB!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Victoria Lynn - I feel the same way. Every time I hear it, it's like the first time and I am deeply moved. Thank you for enjoying the videos and history of the man who wrote these lyrics. You are kind to share this.


sharonchristy profile image

sharonchristy 4 years ago from India

You're a writer with a lot of passion! Loved your article!


Amadi ruth 4 years ago

Amazing grace is all wat we need.we cnt do on our own we need God's mercy and grace.its sufficient 4 us


Amadi ruth 4 years ago

Amazing grace is all wat we need.we cnt do on our own we need God's mercy and grace.its sufficient 4 us


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Hi John Sarkis - I feel that way too. There aren't many songs that I can listen to over and over again. Amazing Grace is so special an speaks of truth. Very glad you came by John!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

sharonchristy - Oh thank you so much. I appreciate your recognizing the passion I have for writing!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

amadi ruth - I like your comments. We certainly can't do it on our own. Well said. Thank you.


ROBERTHEWETTSR profile image

ROBERTHEWETTSR 3 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

Great story, I didn't know those facts. Thanks for sharing this interesting hub and the beautiful music.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 3 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Robertthewettsr - Hi Robert and how are things in Kentucky? Glad to see you here and happy to know that you have learned more facts about this popular and very special song. I love the music as well. Take care:)


rasta1 profile image

rasta1 3 years ago from Jamaica

A very popular international tune. It is a pleasure to know the history behind it.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 3 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

rasta1 - Thank you for enjoying the history of this long-time, well known song.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

I have always been very moved by this song but have never known the history behind it. How fascinating that such a man penned it! This story makes the song even better. Great video that really adds to the hub.


CrisSp profile image

CrisSp 3 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

Very interesting! I'd say my favorite renditions are those of "Elvis and Josh Groban".

Thank you and happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 3 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

FlourishAnyway ~ Knowing the story of this beautiful song really does give us a greater appreciation when we hear it or sing it. Very glad you enjoyed the video. Thanks and take care, my friend!

CrisSP ~ I love Josh Groban's voice, therefore I enjoy listening to his rendition. Thanks so much and Happy Thanksgiving to you!

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