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Amazing Grace, Ritchie and Collins


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GUEST,addison 14 Jan 10 - 09:53 AM
Ruth Archer 15 Jan 10 - 08:38 AM
Fred McCormick 17 Jan 10 - 11:04 AM
Jim McLean 17 Jan 10 - 11:30 AM
Fred McCormick 17 Jan 10 - 12:10 PM
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Subject: Amazing Grace, Ritchie and Collins
From: GUEST,addison
Date: 14 Jan 10 - 09:53 AM

Jean Ritchie recorded Amazing Grace in 1963 (album with Doc Watson at Folk City). Judy Collins made it a chart success in 1970. Does anyone know - did Judy learn the song from Jean's recording? I don't have Steve Turner's book on Amazing Grace or Judy Collins's autobiography so can't check.

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Subject: RE: Amazing Grace, Ritchie and Collins
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 15 Jan 10 - 08:38 AM

Was Amazing Grace a relatively unknown song before Jean Ritchie recorded it, then? I presume this would be the reason why her recording might be the source for Judy Collins's.

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Subject: RE: Amazing Grace, Ritchie and Collins
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 17 Jan 10 - 11:04 AM

I've just come across the following in the booklet notes for Friends of Old Time Music. Smithsonian Folkways SFW CD 40160.

Amazing Grace......... became an anthem of the folk song revival, often the last song of a performance. Typically,all those present—whether audience members at a concert or friends at a home song-swapping session—joined in singing it. The song is the subject of an entire book called Amazing Grace: The Story of America's Most Beloved Song. In it, author Steve Turner writes: that the popularity of "Amazing Grace" with East Coast folksingers of the 1960s can be dated back to a performance that the guitarist and singer Doc Watson gave in New York in 1961 as part of Clarence Ashley's band… "There were about four hundred of us there, mostly musicians, and we were really moved," said Cohen. "The experience was heightened because
it was a blind man singing it and it made us realize that this was a personal statement of the course of someone's life. We had no experience of something like this and it was happening right in front of us It was an interesting thing We were mostly non-religious people, we didn't go to church or synagogue, but this song cut through".

I don't know whether JC learnt the song directly from the JR/DW recording or from the Friends of Old Time Music concert which Turners refers to above, or from the Folkways LP, Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley's which came out around the same time. I think it more likely that she picked it up from the song sessions which Turner also mentions.

However, I've always understood that the version thus popularised was cobbled together by a number of singers, including JR, DW and CA. They had apparently been asked to sing it at a folk festival and, finding they all knew different sets of words, settled on the verse order which came to the world's attention via the JC recording. In other words, the version which the whole world now knows isn't traditional.

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Subject: RE: Amazing Grace, Ritchie and Collins
From: Jim McLean
Date: 17 Jan 10 - 11:30 AM

Judy Collins says she learned the song from her Grandmother when she was a little girl. Collins was born in 1939 and by then the song had been recorded many, many times. The song is not really traditional in the sense that both writer and composer are unknown as the source of the lyrics, John Newton, has been established but for copyright reasons Amazing Grace is classed as Trad.

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Subject: RE: Amazing Grace, Ritchie and Collins
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 17 Jan 10 - 12:10 PM

We may know the author, but that doesn't stop the song from being traditional. In fact AG entered the American tradition in grand style, turning up in a large number of variations among both Black and White performers.

Interesting thought that JC could have learned it from her grandmother. That was one I hadn't thought to conjure with.

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Mudcat time: 14 August 6:51 AM EDT

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