Amazing Grace: The Story of America's Most Beloved Song  -     By: Steve Turner
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Amazing Grace: The Story of America's Most Beloved Song

HarperPerennial / 2003 / Paperback

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As a young man, John Newton was pressed into the Royal Navy, but was such a rebellious sailor that he was moved to a slave ship in Madeira and eventually became a "servant of slaves in Africa." He was rescued from Africa by a merchant ship, but on the voyage back to England his ship endured an eleven-hour storm on the Atlantic---after which, reflecting on his miraculous survival and on his wretched state in Africa, he converted to Christianity. Back in England, he eventually became a minister and, still later, a vocal abolitionist. During his time as a Church of England parish priest, he and a friend, the poet William Cowper, began experimenting with what was then a relatively new form of religious song, the Protestant hymn, when he wrote "Amazing Grace" for use among his congregation.

The hymn made its way across the Atlantic to South Carolina, where the lyrics were published for the first time with a tune. Through the nineteenth century it appeared in more and more hymnals, and in the twentieth century it rose to become a gospel and folk standard, then exploded into pop music with Judy Collins's masterful 1970 a capella recording, which took over the charts. In fact, the majority of the more than 450 recordings of "Amazing Grace" held by the Library of Congress were made after 1970. Turner traces the hymn through the American gospel tradition in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and interviews contemporary artists to reveal why they were compelled to record the hymn.

steve Turner is the author of Trouble Man: The Life and Death of Marvin Gaye, A Hard Day's Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles' Song, Hungry for Heaven: Rock and Roll and the Search for Redemption, Jack Kerouac: Angelheaded Hipster, and Van Morrison: Too Late to Stop Now. He lives in London with his wife and two children.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 304
Vendor: HarperPerennial
Publication Date: 2003
Dimensions: 8 X 5 5/16 (inches)
ISBN: 0060002190
ISBN-13: 9780060002190
Availability: Usually ships in 24-48 hours.

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Publisher's Description

Behind our most beloved hymn is a fascinating story spanning continents, cultures, and centuries. Inspired by the way "Amazing Grace" continues to change and grow in popularity, acclaimed music writer Steve Turner embarks on a journey to trace the life of the hymn, from Olney, England, where it was written by former slave trader John Newton, to tiny Plantain Island off the coast of Africa, where Newton was held captive for almost a year, to the Kentucky-Tennessee border and other parts of the South, where the hymn first began to spread.

Newton had been rescued from Africa by a merchant ship when, during an eleven-hour storm on the Atlantic, he converted to Christianity. Years later, as a minister, he wrote the hymn for use among his congregation. Through the nineteenth century, "Amazing Grace" appeared in more and more hymn books, and in the twentieth century it rose to a gospel and folk standard before exploding into pop music. It has been recorded by artists as varied as Elvis Presley, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Tiny Tim, Al Green, Johnny Cash, Rod Stewart, Chet Baker, and Destiny's Child. Amazing Grace closely examines this modern history of the hymn through personal interviews with recording artists.

From John Newton's incredible life story to the hymn's role in American spirituality and culture, Amazing Grace is an illuminating, thorough, and unprecedented musical history.

Author Bio

Steve Turner is the author of Trouble Man: The Life and Death of Marvin Gaye, A Hard Day's Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles' Song, Hungry for Heaven: Rock and Roll and the Search for Redemption, Jack Kerouac: Angelheaded Hipster, and Van Morrison: Too Late to Stop Now. His articles have appeared in Rolling Stone, Mojo, Q, and the London Times. He lives in London with his wife and two children.

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