Steve Turner - Amazing Grace: John Newton, Slavery And The World's Most Enduring Song
STYLE: Biography and Autobiography RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 12895-BOK52 LABEL: Lion 9780745951782 FORMAT: Book General book RELEASE DATE: 2005-04-22 RRP: £8.99
Reviewed by Tony Cummings
I tried, without success, to get this book when it was first published in the USA in 2002 so I am delighted that this truly fascinating work has finally been taken up by a British publisher. Inspired by a conversation with Bono, poet, children's writer, rock music journalist and all round renaissance man Turner investigates the epic tale of the world's most recorded song ("Amazing Grace" is currently featured on more than 1,100 different albums!). The book is broken into two sections, the first dealing with the life of the song's lyricist John Newton. Most churchgoers know that Newton was a slave trader yet far fewer realise that he didn't become an actual slave ship captain until AFTER his conversion (although Newton was very much involved in slave trading before that dramatic storm brought Newton to his knees). Turner's research is impeccable, painstakingly tracing the early tunes used with Newton's words before the plaintive one we know today - which could possibly be of Scottish origin - was settled on to go with Newton's classic words and began turning up in "shape note" songbooks. The second section of the book deals with the dissemination of "Amazing Grace" and takes in the proliferation of songbooks, the Great Awakenings, the growth of African American gospel music and, most unexpectedly of all, the acceptance of the song into the folk music repertoire where it flourished ever prior to Judy Collins' million selling recording of the song. It's all here - from Ira Sankey to the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. A fascinating tale, comprehensively told.
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Top music writer Steve Turner traces the biography of Amazing Grace, the world’s most recorded song. Versions of this hymn have been performed by artists as diverse as Elvis Presley, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Johnny Cash, Rod Stewart and Destiny’s Child.
The book begins with the dramatic story of John Newton and his participation in the African slave trade through to his writing of Amazing Grace and his campaigning against slavery. The second part of the book - picking up the thread in the years following Newton’s death - tells the story of the song itself as it has spread and developed over the past 280 years and its recordings by artists from a wide variety of musical backgrounds. This includes the aftermath of September 11th when the hymn became an international anthem of hope and solidarity.