This book is divided into two parts. The first part tells the reader the history behind the song involving the slave trader named John Newton who, even after his conversion, saw no conflict between his Christian beliefs and transporting Africans against their will into a life of involuntary servitude. How was he able to praise God for the gift of freedom while denying it to others? Perhaps it was because people at this time, Newton included, didn't think that slaves had souls, or that they could, like him, receive God's grace. Newton believed that his faith only required him to be a more humane slave trader. After suffering a stroke, Newton's career as a slave trader came to an abrupt end. It wasn't until the mid 1780's that Newton publicly spoke out about slavery. If Africans have the same spiritual and intellectual capacity as whites, then slavery would not be possible to justify.
The second half of the book is about the history of the song along with various singers who have performed the song. Special attention is given to Judy Collins who introduced the song to a new audience with her 1970 hit recording. The timing appeared to be correct with America entangled in the Vietnam war, Charles Manson was in the news, and people yearned for a less complicated lifestyle. Other singers of the time such as The Byrds (Turn, Turn, Turn), Simon and Garfunkel (Bridge Over Troubled Waters), and Norman Greenbaum (Spirit in the Sky), are mentioned that came out with appropriate songs during this troubled time. Other hymnwriters such as William Cowper (pronounced "Cooper") who appeared to have some emotional problems and wrote some hymns that may be considered on the depressing side are also mentioned. Of interest to me regarding Amazing Grace is that my favorite verse "When we've been there ten thousand years. Bright shining as the sun. We've no less days to sing God's praise than when we first begun." was not written by John Newton, but added to the song by Edwin Othello Excell who may have taken the idea from Harriet Beecher Stowe's book about slavery called Uncle Tom's Cabin or from former slaves. These lines originated in the hymn "Jerusalem, My Happy Home." and then applied to "Amazing Grace by Excell.
There is a lot to learn about this anthem of Christian hymns for everyone. Sadly, there are probably a number of people who think the word "grace" applies only to the name of a girl.