Amazing Grace is one of the most recognisable songs in the English-speaking world. It is played at funerals and sombre occasions with almost cliched regularity. Sometimes it is just the melody that is played without the lyrics. It is one of the first songs a student of the bagpipes learns to play.
My personal opinion is the best versions are sung a cappella – voices in a choir without instruments.
The words were written by an English poet, John Newton, in 1779. It wasn’t until 1835 when it was paired with a tune called “New Britain” that it became the hymn that is famous today.
Why has this hymn become so popular? Because it gives the message of hope and mercy, that sins will be forgiven and God’s grace will keep you safe. When it is performed, it has maximum impact if it starts soft and minimalistic and then builds up with more volume, more instruments and more voices towards the end.
Amazing Grace has been recorded over 7000 times and referenced regularly in popular culture. Below I have included videos of my favourite versions.
The lyrics below were John Newton’s original lyrics. In recent times, some religious publications have updated the words eg.The second line, “That saved a wretch like me!” has been rewritten as “That saved and strengthened me”, “saved a soul like me”, or “that saved and set me free”. This was done to minimise the self-loathing aspect of it, according to Wikipedia.
- Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
- ’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
- Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
- The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.
- Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
- The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
- When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.