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Amazing Grace: John Newton, Slavery and the World's Most Enduring Song Paperback – 22 Apr 2005

4 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • 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)

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Product Description

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.

Inside This Book

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First Sentence
John Newton, a seventeen-year-old sailor, was standing on the deck of a ship anchored off Venice in the Spring of 1743. Read the first page
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Format: Paperback
My title says it all. I read this after seeing "Amazing Grace". What a life Newton lead!

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was looking for the CD of this song by Judy Collins having heard a recording at a funeral. Once I had seen this book advertised I thought that I must get it. I am still reading it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa58871e0) out of 5 stars 12 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa5300ec4) out of 5 stars This book surprised me... 21 Nov. 2003
By Jerry Guild - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I'm not sure why,but this book has a lot more to it than first meets the eye.Often books of this nature are of the 'edited 'type with very little effort put into them and while the concept is good ;usually filled with a bunch of fluff.But not this one.A great effort has gone into it and as a result we have an excellent work.
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.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa5310960) out of 5 stars The Story Behind the Song 30 Dec. 2002
By Bill Emblom - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is divided into two parts. The first part tells the reader the history behind the song involving the slave trader named John Newton who, even after his conversion, saw no conflict between his Christian beliefs and transporting Africans against their will into a life of involuntary servitude. How was he able to praise God for the gift of freedom while denying it to others? Perhaps it was because people at this time, Newton included, didn't think that slaves had souls, or that they could, like him, receive God's grace. Newton believed that his faith only required him to be a more humane slave trader. After suffering a stroke, Newton's career as a slave trader came to an abrupt end. It wasn't until the mid 1780's that Newton publicly spoke out about slavery. If Africans have the same spiritual and intellectual capacity as whites, then slavery would not be possible to justify.
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.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa53084f8) out of 5 stars a work of history that reads like a good mystery 21 Jan. 2003
By David Thoburn - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love Steve Turner books, and I love the song Amazing Grace. What a combination!...a work of history that reads like a good mystery novel! I couldn't put it down until I'd read it from cover to cover. This book has everything...a great redemption story, both for the man, Newton--and his song, which didn't really take off until someone put the perfect tune with it a hundred years later. Turner manages to present the context of Newton's theology in a scholarly way that will be informative, but not off-putting to those who are not into reformed theology. The secular life of the song is see how this song was popularized, and now touches millions. To me this song has what we wan't all music to have...something that touches our insides in a way we can't describe, but we know that it makes our lives more complete. And the biggest surprise of the book?...Newton became a slave-trader AFTER his conversion, and only opposed slavery much later in life. Considering how slowly America has repented of it's historic racism, there may be a lesson for us all as we see the sanctification that occurred over time in Newton's life.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa5317d14) out of 5 stars Grace Both Sacred And Secular 5 May 2003
By Bruce Crocker - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I sing and Amazing Grace is one of my favorite hymns. I'm also a nontheist. I'm pretty comfortable with those two seemingly incongruous facts, but I thought I'd read Steve Turner's book Amazing Grace to see if other folks like me had made it into the text. I'm also an Arlo Guthrie fan and I figured I'd do some fact checking on the version of John Newton's story Arlo tells when singing Amazing Grace in concert. Folks like me show up towards the end of the second part of the book and Turner indicates that Arlo is aware that his version is condensed and inaccurate.
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.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa530e1bc) out of 5 stars lovely, comprehensive resource 24 Feb. 2003
By Laura Martineau - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I just led a church service about "Amazing Grace," and Steve Turner's book served as my main resource. I read it cover to cover during the process, and found it highly intelligent and interesting, with far too many "tidbits" that I wanted to include in the service and couldn't! I encourage the reading of this book AS a "pleasure read," not just as research material.
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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