Amazing Grace

I always thought “Amazing Grace” was a nice, sort of generic, hear-it-all-the-time-never-really-pay-attention kind of song. Then it popped up in one of my guitar lessons. It’s a classic tune for learning your first hammer-ons and pull-offs. The music I’ve been playing from doesn’t list a composer, just the word “Spiritual” as a sub-head.

And played slowly, with feeling (and flub-free) it is a very spiritual song. I thought it was another spiritual like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” that came over with slaves from Africa. Not so. I learned today that the song was written by John Newton (1725-1807), an English sea captain responsible for transporting thousands of slaves from Africa to the New World.

During one fierce storm at sea, he had a religious awakening and converted to Evangelical Christianity. And then wrote “Amazing Grace,” among other hymns. I wonder if his tune was at all influenced by the music he heard rising up from the chains below decks on all those voyages.

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