Over the past two weeks, 1,000 singers from across the globe, professional and amateur alike, have answered Judy Collins’ call to sing “Amazing Grace” with her as a sign of solidarity in this unprecedented time. This new version of Judy’s historic recording was released today (May 29). Alan Cumming, Judith Owen, Steve Earle, Madeleine Peyroux, Mandolin Orange and Tift Merritt are just some of the singers who participated in this Global Virtual Chorus event, plus internationally known choirs including the Sixteen, New York Choral Society and Soweto Gospel Choir.
Watch moving messages from Alan Cumming, Steve Earle and Tift Merritt about what Judy’s recording of “Amazing Grace” means to them, and a message from Ringo Starr too.
Every person who recorded themselves singing along is featured on the stunning new recording. Scroll down to hear the track.
From May 15-May 22, singers were encouraged to record audio/video of themselves singing “Amazing Grace” via this website.
All proceeds raised from this single will be going to the World Health Organization Solidarity Response Fund.
“Amazing Grace” has become a source of comfort during these unprecedented times with Collins’ version being played to Charing Cross Hospital in London, which received a swell of emotional outpouring on social media and over five million views and the priest of Notting Hill, Pat Allerton, playing Judy’s version of the song for his sermons on the streets.
Says Collins, “I recorded ‘Amazing Grace’ with a group of friends at Saint Paul’s Chapel on the Columbia University campus in New York City. When my recording of ‘Amazing Grace’ was released it became enormously popular all over the world. It was written by John Newton in 1772, a man who evolved from a slave ship captain to a writer of powerful hymns, and changed his entire life, becoming a model for spiritual transformation. That’s what we need today once again. Stay safe, help others and pray for the planet. I am sending this song out to all the doctors, nurses and patients. We will survive this with love and music and amazing grace.”
Collins embraced “Amazing Grace” in 1964 after she witnessed marchers singing the hymn led by voting and women’s rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, and saw its equal emotional impact on the marchers, witnesses, and law enforcement who opposed the civil rights demonstrators. She considered it as a talisman of sorts for peace and started to perform the song in her sets from that point on—it soon became one of her most requested songs when she played live.
She recorded it for her 1970 album Whales & Nightingales, and connected the recording to the Vietnam War, to which she objected. Subsequently when asked why, Collins explained, “I didn’t know what else to do about the war in Vietnam. 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.’ A sentiment that will ring true with many today.”
Collins’ version of the song became a global hit, finding chart success repeatedly. It remained on the charts in the U.S. for 70 straight weeks after it was released. In the U.K. it charted five different times between 1970 and 1972. It has also already made history and was registered with the Library of Congress.