The Song

FASCINATING FACTS

  • John Newton first used the song “Amazing Grace” to illustrate his New Year’s sermon on January 1, 1773. The sermon was entitled “Faith’s review and expectation” looking at the Christian’s past, present and future. The lyrics describe Newton’s own spiritual journey as a ‘wretch’ who was rescued (both physically and spiritually) by God’s grace.
  • Newton did not write the final version of the hymn as it appears in most hymnbooks today: "When we've been here ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, We've no less days to sing God's praise Than when we'd first begun." This verse was added to a version of "Amazing Grace" by Harriet Beecher Stowe, in her novel “Uncle Tom's Cabin”. This last verse is attributed to John P. Rees.
  • The now familiar and traditional melody of the hymn was not composed by Newton. A number of different melodies were used at first. The melody we now use is believed to be Scottish or Irish in origin; possibly a bagpipe tune. The hymn is frequently performed on bagpipes and has become associated with that instrument.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • British girl band All Saints, used the tune of “Amazing Grace” as the basis for their hit “Never Ever”.
  • The first known recording of the song was made by The Wisdom Sisters in 1926.
  • There are 972 known musical arrangements of the hymn.
  • In March 1796 at the age of 70, Newton wrote in his journal “Oh it was a mercy indeed to save a wretch like me” – he still applied the lyrics of the hymn to his own life story.