The 1960s and early 1970s witnessed changing cultural norms, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam War. The Cold War and the assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert Kennedy intensified people’s fears and insecurities. Politics were intense, protests were common, and many people feared that the nation was coming apart at the seams.
In the midst of the tension and hostility, a song arose. It was not a new song, but it seemed to be received in new ways by the American public. The folk singer Judy Collins released an a cappella version of it in 1970. It reached #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained on the charts for 15 weeks. Shortly thereafter, the British Army recorded an instrumental version featuring bagpipes. It peaked at #11 on the U.S. charts and was #1 in Canada. Popular versions would also be recorded during that time by Aretha Franklin, Rod Stewart, and Johnny Cash.
About the song, Collins said, “I didn't know what else to do . . . I had marched, I had voted, I had gone to jail on political actions and worked for the candidates I believed in. The war was still raging. There was nothing left to do, I thought . . . but sing ‘Amazing Grace.’”
I’m not so naïve as to think that a song single-handedly fixes everything. We all would do well, however, to let God’s grace sing to our hearts and then extend that same grace all around. When we unleash it, grace will amaze us.