- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Lion Books (22 April 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0745951783
- ISBN-13: 978-0745951782
- Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.3 x 1.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,096,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Amazing Grace: John Newton, Slavery and the World's Most Enduring Song Paperback – 22 Apr 2005
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More About the Author
About the Author
STEVE TURNER is a performance poet and journalist. Author of several anthologies of adult verse, children's poetry and many rock biographies.
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Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
While he never gets away from his topic,Turner gives us an awful lot about the history of Newton and everyone associated with him,a thorough understanding of the slave trade,a good understanding of the various Protestant churches of the18th and 19th centuries .If that isn't enough, he has covered in minute detail the evolution of the hymn,it's meaning word by word,it's associated music and how it spread ,and by whom ,throughout it's 225 year history.
He has beautifully shown the deep religious and theological meaning the hymn has for those who understand it and have a faith in God.He has just as well explained how and why so many people love and get inspiration from the hymn even though they may have little in the way of faith or religious involvement.He does this without being judgemental in any way.
As to how Newton could be involved in the slave trade.."Slavery was as acceptable as abortion is today-it was legal,it had immediate and tangible benefits,and people predicted widespread calamity should it ever be banned.There was no social pressure for him to feel shame.Cities had been built on the fruits of slavery and the great merchants of slaves were celebrated,giving their names to buildings and streets.It was those who were opposed to slavery who were regarded as irritants-ememies of social stability,troublemakers,idealists with no concern for progress."
There is one thing I would like to add and that is..If there ever was a book that would have benefited from an included CD,this would have been it.
The second half of the book is about the history of the song along with various singers who have performed the song. Special attention is given to Judy Collins who introduced the song to a new audience with her 1970 hit recording. The timing appeared to be correct with America entangled in the Vietnam war, Charles Manson was in the news, and people yearned for a less complicated lifestyle. Other singers of the time such as The Byrds (Turn, Turn, Turn), Simon and Garfunkel (Bridge Over Troubled Waters), and Norman Greenbaum (Spirit in the Sky), are mentioned that came out with appropriate songs during this troubled time. Other hymnwriters such as William Cowper (pronounced "Cooper") who appeared to have some emotional problems and wrote some hymns that may be considered on the depressing side are also mentioned. Of interest to me regarding Amazing Grace is that my favorite verse "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 first begun." was not written by John Newton, but added to the song by Edwin Othello Excell who may have taken the idea from Harriet Beecher Stowe's book about slavery called Uncle Tom's Cabin or from former slaves. These lines originated in the hymn "Jerusalem, My Happy Home." and then applied to "Amazing Grace by Excell.
There is a lot to learn about this anthem of Christian hymns for everyone. Sadly, there are probably a number of people who think the word "grace" applies only to the name of a girl.
The first part of Amazing Grace is the story of John Newton and how he came to write the words to what is now America's favorite hymn. I learned a lot of history, especially of the slave trade in the 1700's, while getting the non-Arlo, complicated version of Mr. Newton's life. The second part of the book follows the history of the hymn post-Newton. Turner has done his homework and I especially enjoyed learning about the history of the hymn in the 1800's, including how Amazing Grace picked up the tune we now sing it to.
I highly recommend Amazing Grace to fans of history, music, and, of course, the hymn Amazing Grace.
I particularly appreciated the section on contemporary versions of "Amazing Grace" and its impact on the secular community. As a Unitarian Universalist, I was greatly cheered to find one of our ministers quoted on the impact of the hymn on those who don't necessarily believe in a divine presence.
The discography of AG recordings included as an appendix was also hugely valuable, as I compiled a CD of recorded versions as a "party favor" for my (small) congregation. Turner's correct when he says it's a "select" discography, but he got most of the really good ones!
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