Five years ago today, President Barack Obama broke out in a rendition of “Amazing Grace” while delivering the eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was slaughtered along with eight of his parishioners when a white supremacist gunman opened fire during their Bible study at his church in Charleston, South Carolina.
“Grace” was the theme in Obama’s eulogy. In remembrance of the nine who died, and of a president who unites in troubled times instead of divides, we revisit some of the most moving renditions of the song. Written in 1772 by John Newton, a former slave trader who experienced a conversion to Christianity and became an abolitionist, “Amazing Grace” and its simple ode to redemption and salvation is estimated to be performed 10 million times annually and has appeared on over 11,000 albums.
Among the endless renditions and arrangements are several below that have moved us the most. (Warning: Aretha Franklin appears more than once.) As Obama said of grace on this day in 2015, “May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift, as long as our lives endure.”
Aretha Franklin: Live at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church (1972)
Al Green (2007)
Whitney Houston singing backup for Bebe and Cece Winans on their Tour (1989)
Etta James (1982)
US Soldiers (2018)
Naturi Naughton at a high school in East Orange, NJ (2016)
Soweto Gospel Choir (2011)
Diana Ross: Christmas in Vienna (1993)
Aretha Franklin: Oprah’s Surprise Farewell Show (2011)
Mahalia Jackson – Amazing Grace