History of Amazing Grace, part 1: The Story Behind the Song

John Newton

John Newton, Epilogue

Ironically, following his conversion to Christianity, Newton spent the next six years as captain of slave ships. While he had religious services on board, he eventually came to abhor slavery and later to crusade against it. He influenced British Member of Parliament William Wilberforce to become active in working to abolish it. (We’ll discuss Wilberforce’s story in a subsequent article.)

Amazing Grace, the Song

His song, Amazing Grace, has become the American anthem and influenced many generations. It’s been sung by everyone from Elvis Presley to Aretha Franklin. Even President Obama sang it at a eulogy. It became popular again in America first when Arlo Guthrie sang it at Woodstock in 1969, but more prominently when Judy Collins, along with friends and family at St. Paul’s chapel at Columbia University, recorded it a capella in 1970. Her version has been named to the National Registry. I had the pleasure of seeing Judy Collins sing it in Denver a couple of years ago. It has remained my favorite hymn all my life and will usher me into the next. It always makes me misty-eyed.

Writer and technologist. Author of fascinating articles about history, tech trends, and pop culture. billpetro.com @billpetro

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