Implicit Religion, Vol 16, No 3 (2013)

America's Heirloom Comfort Song: "Amazing Grace"

Kevin Lewis
Issued Date: 1 Dec 2013

Abstract


An historical, sociological, theological, cultural inquiry into the popularity of Newton’s hymn across the racial (and class) lines that divide North Americans. This “heirloom,” this “cultural icon,” functions widely and continually, primarily as a “comfort song” (like “comfort” food). The religious and non-religious alike return again and again to (the first three stanzas of) “America’s most beloved song”: a staple of funerals, preserved in over a thousand recordings, most of them in the “popular” realm. This article explores the continuing nature of its long-proven appeal to a diverse breadth of Americans, in increasingly secularized times. The article notes, however, its apparent failure to energize reconciliation of the black and white races, both of which remain deeply devoted to it.

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DOI: 10.1558/imre.v16i3.277-288

References


Bailey, Edward. 1998. Implicit Religion: An Introduction. London: Middlesex University Press.
Harvey, Bob. 2002. The Ottawa Citizen. Match 31.
O’Connor, Flannery. 1969. Mystery and Manners. Eds. Sally and Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux.
Ragen, Brian Abel. 1994. “A Wretch Like Who?” America. January 24, Vol. 170, no.3.
Turner, Steve. 2002. Amazing Grace: The Story of America’s Most Beloved Song. New York: Ecco.

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