Last week, to mark the passing of surf guitar great Dick Dale, we unearthed video of his scorching performance of Amazing Grace at the Jersey shore.
A couple of days later, the Scot Symphonic Band performed its own stirring rendition, during a concert at the Presbyterian Church in Morristown.
This sent us back to our Morristown Green video vault where, lo and behold, we found a treasure trove of remarkable covers of Amazing Grace, one of the world’s most beloved and durable songs.
The words date to 1779 and are credited to John Newton, an English poet and Anglican clergyman. The melody was pinched from a tune called New Britain in 1835.
A Newton biographer has estimated Amazing Grace is performed 10 million times annually.
There is more than a little irony in the fact that this song originated in a church, and that it has become recognized as an African American spiritual.
Newton’s early days were spent on the high seas, were he is said to have cultivated a vocabulary capable of making fellow sailors blush.
And he was active in the slave trade. His abolitionist transformation came years later. Historians have debated whether the wretchedness to which Newton refers in Amazing Grace is his involvement in slavery.
Amazing Grace has landed on pop music charts several times. President Obama sang it at the funeral for victims of a church shooting in Charleston in 2015.
Books and documentaries have explored why this song has endured for so long, and captivated so many diverse people, and been adopted for so many causes.
So we’ll just marvel at the myriad artistic interpretations of Amazing Grace. Here are a few from our vault that are, simply, amazing:
The Scot Symphonic Band pipes up ‘Amazing Grace’ in Morristown, March 20, 2019:
Joe Crookston gives an Appalachian spin to ‘Amazing Grace’ at The Minstrel in Morris Township in 2018:
Alphorns, anyone? ‘Amazing Grace’ at the 2017 New Jersey State Fair, video by Jeff Sovelove:
After being overcome by summer heat at a 2015 festival, folk legend Judy Collins returned to close the show with her signature song:
Joe ‘Bird Man’ Sodano whistles ‘Amazing Grace’ in Morristown at a 2015 memorial for Chef Melody Whitelaw:
Lakheecsia Vic and Jomear Martin share a soulful version of ‘Amazing Grace,’ on Martin Luther King Day 2014 in Morristown:
The Amazing Dick Dale, down the Shore in 2012: