‘Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.’
– One of the original verses from ‘Amazing Grace’, written in the mid-1700s by the song’s originator, John Newton
A Brief Note from Doug Draper at Niagara At Large
Posted April 13th, 2020, during another day at home
During these perilous times, while countless millions of us remain isolated in our homes, music has been playing such has played such a soothing role in lifting spirits and calming fears.
One of the many redeeming things that has come out of this grim moment in our collective lives – and there have been many, if we think of it – is the number of municipal artists around the world, artists who are well known and artists who we have never heard or seen before – who have used the internet to bring a little heart and soul into our homes.
At least some of you may have enjoyed this one already, but here is the great Italian singer Andrea Bocelli, alone on the steps of a cathedral in Milan recently, singing us ‘Amazing Grace.
Click the screen immediately below to watch –
Some of you may know – some may even remember – Amazing Grace serving as a theme song for the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s,
That was way back when it was recorded and performed by one of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.’s favourite singers, Mahalia Jackson, then most notably by singers like Aretha Franklin, Judy Collins and Joan Baez.
Legendary folksinger and social justice activist Pete Seeger also embraced this song as did Woody Guthrie’s son, Arlo, who included it in his set at the Woodstock Festival in 1969.
When I saw Arlo Guthrie in concert at Artpark in Lewiston, New York about a decade and a half later, he mentioned that the person who the original versus for the song back in the mid-1700s, a British poet named John Newton who later became an Anglican clergyman, and who also served as a sea captain carrying “human cargo” from Africa to North America for the slave trade.
One night, while on the ship and looking up at the stars above the ocean, Newton had what amounted to a spiritual conversion. He turned the ship around and took the people locked down in the ship’s hold back to their African homes.
That is where words like; “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lot, but now am found. T’was blind, but now can see” came from.
Or at least that’s the story, the way I remember hearing it Arlo telling it, goes.
If you have a different version of that story or another story altogether that speaks to the origin of the song, please feel free to share in it the space below this post and we can have a little more fun together on the internet while we have all this time.
I am going to start putting more of these on in the days ahead, to balance off the steady drip, drip, drip of the often worrisome news we have been getting about the impact COVD-19 has been having on our communities and lives.
NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the Bernie Sanders quote below.