January 1 in History

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

An Anglican clergyman named John Newton wrote the hymn titled “Faith’s Review and Expectation” late in 1772, and he introduced the hymn in a New Year’s Day service in his parish in Olney, Buckinghamshire, on this date in 1773. The hymn became best known by the two-word exclamation that opens it: “Amazing grace!”

It was not yet attached to any music. Newton and a poet friend named William Cowper collaborated on many hymns for the Olney parish, and in 1779 the two published a collection titled Olney Hymns. (The page with “Amazing Grace” is seen at top.) The book was not a bestseller, but over time it became popular in America during the Second Great Awakening in the 1830s: at least 37 editions were published in America by 1836.

“Faith’s Review and Expectation,” not yet known as “Amazing Grace,” was not yet popular, even though the hymnal was. It was merely one of the many hymns in the popular book.

Congregations in America started a tradition of singing hymns together. “Amazing Grace” was attached to two dozen different tunes that most people already knew. In 1835, a South Carolinian named William Walker connected “Amazing Grace” to a tune titled “New Britain” in a music textbook. That tune is the one that has possibly been going through your mind since reading the opening words to “Faith’s Review and Expectation.”

* * * *
The number one song in the U.S. 50 years ago on this date was the version of Neil Diamond’s song “I’m a Believer” by The Monkees:

 
* * * *
Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was published anonymously on this date in 1818.

* * * *
President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was issued on this date in 1863.

* * * *
Gary Larson published his last The Far Side newspaper comic on this date in 1995.

* * * *
Hank Williams died on this date in 1953. Maurice Chevalier died on this date in 1972. Townes Van Zandt died 20 years ago today. Here he is singing his composition, “Pancho and Lefty”:

 
Tillie Olsen died 10 years ago today.

* * * *
E. M. Forster was born on this date in 1879. J. D. Salinger was born on this date in 1919. Joe Orton was born on this date in 1933.

* * * *
Senator Ernest Hollings is 95 today. He is the oldest living former U.S. senator.

Frank Langella is 79 today. Country Joe McDonald is 75 today. Don Novello is 74 today. Grandmaster Flash is 59 today. Verne Troyer is 48 today.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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One comment

  1. rogershipp · January 2

    Many things on today that changed the personal parts on many people’s worlds.

    Like

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