Amazing Grace: A Jesus Music song?
Sometimes we forget how quickly a song can become a classic. For example, the English version we all know and love of “How Great Thou Art” was translated and published within the lifetime of many readers. As another example, though John Newton wrote the lyric to “Amazing Grace” over two centuries ago, it wasn’t paired with the melody we know until more recently. (He also didn’t write the “When we’ve been there ten thousand years” verse; that was a later addition.)
While the song was out there in the form we know it for years, it didn’t hold the place it holds as one of the most popular hymns until the 1960s. In fact, its rise was sudden enough that the Blackwood Brothers, when composing liner notes for their 1971 compilation Put Your Hand in the Hand, listed it with songs popularized by Jesus Music:
But not all the songs included here are pure gospel music as such. For this album contains three songs which may be considered themes of the young people who are now turning to religion more than ever before. This religious naissance [sic], widely popularized in what has come to be called the “Jesus Revolution,” has spawned a mixture of the traditionally secular with contemporary folk or pop rock. This has produced such upbeat tunes as the title tune of this collection, Put Your Hand in the Hand, which was so successful as recorded by the young rock group, Ocean. Another song, Amazing Grace, became popular in folk circles and catapulted to the top of the music charts when performed by Judy Collins. Then there is Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon and Garfunkel’s poignant affirmation of dedication and love. These pop-oriented songs with gospel overtones take on a new dimension when sung rousingly or quietly by the Blackwood Brothers.