I am a lover of music as I think most people are. Some are obsessive about it and if one has to be obsessive about anything, that seems like an OK topic. I was born and raised in a Baptist church, went to an Associate Presbyterian college, roomed with an Episcopal minister’s son as my roommate for most of my undergrad and married a Methodist young lady who spent much of her life going to a “Christian Church” (The Disciples of Christ); that is a denomination. So, there are not many types of hymns I have not sung and brutalized. I learned when trying to perform the “shag” (that is a dance folks) with my current bride, who was a music major, that I was a beat off musically and based on the fact that I was off by several mentally, I don’t really think I was surprised. Now that we have my musical ability established; I am reasonably certain I am the only male who was asked to “unjoin” a reasonably small protestant church choir, I am going back to hymns.
I heard a young lady in a Houston shelter for those displaced by Harvey leading whoever wanted to participate in some christian hymns and her joy at just being alive was inspiring. I also saw clips of Harry Connick Jr. playing and singing some hymns in a church gathering and also at a shelter. He has a good heart and showed it after Katrina and has not forgotten what the people of Houston did for New Orleans. Now I am going to give you some facts about the one song that I likely know more of the lyrics than any other; Amazing Grace!
- John Newton
John Newton was an atheist who was converted to Christianity, became an Anglican Priest and a poet. He penned Amazing Grace to accompany a New Years Day sermon in 1773. It is possible the verses were chanted as opposed to being sung in that original unveiling. Over the following 100+ years it was likely sung to 20 or 30 different tunes, which was not unusual for songs during this time period that had similarly measured verses. The biographer of Mr. Newton, Jonathan Aiken estimates that the hymn is performed about 10 million times annually. This all has a meaning to me that may be difficult for anyone else to understand in the same way, but remember I am at least a beat off.
My oldest son was not a very good sleeper, at least not when the rest of the world realized it was time for sleep. This led to many nights of rocking for many hours for both my wife and me (probably a lot more for her, but I don’t remember it that way since she is not looking over my shoulder). When rocking Chris, I would attempt to sing, you know soothing the savage beast and all that. Now I have always been a big Jimmy Buffett fan, or parrothead, but could never remember more than a few words to a lot of songs. As previously stated, I grew up a Baptist and you could not reach a certain age without knowing all six verses of Amazing Grace. So, to wrap up this story that was not supposed to be this long, between Chris’ birth and third birthday (at least) he song was more likely performed 10 million + about 2,000 more by me. This is just one of the amazing hymns that really became folk hymns in the early history of the US; I would love to hear people’s recollections of the tunes of their lives.