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Eric Shackle Writes: Amazing Grace - Amazing Race

"Danny Bloom, an American journalist living in Taiwan, has rewritten the lyrics of one of the world's favorite hymns, 'Amazing Grace'. He has changed the title to 'The Human Race'.'' writes Eric Shackle.

Here are Danny's words:

Amazing race, how cool you are
A long-lived family tree.
We are one on Earth unbound
Once born, we breathe, we see.

O human race there's naught to fear.
life's one sweet adventure true
How precious is each day we live
You and you and you!

Though many dangers, toils and snares
Lurk behind the doors of fear
We are one amazing race
and friends are always near.

Day by day and year by year
We need to stand up tall
And fight injustice wherever it lies.
United, one and all

But when our flesh and hearts do fail,
And mortal life does end,
The human race goes on and on
and memories last, my friend.

Well, we've been here ten million years
And we'll last till the end of time.
So wipe away those human tears
Be strong, be good, be kind.

Amazing race, how cool you are
A long-lived family tree.
We are one on Earth unbound
Once born, we breathe, we see.

Amazing Grace, "almost certainly the most spiritually moving melody ever created," was written in the 1770s by John Newton, an Englishman who had been in turn a slave and a slave-trader.

After a checkered and violent career as a boy and young man, Newton "saw the light," and ended his days as a respected clergyman in the English village of Olney, in Buckinghamshire.

"Amazing Grace might very well be the most easily recognizable hymn ever written," says the Newton Library website. "It's been recorded by popular singers, performed on TV, used in commercials and it was even played in its entirety during the broadcast of the women's gymnastic competition of the 1996 Olympics.

"Many people who never stepped foot in a church could recite the first few lines and maybe even the whole first verse."

In her book, "Amazing Grace, The Story of the Hymn", Linda Granfield wrote "Newton was a man of paradoxes: for many years he earned his living from the slave trade, and yet he was for a short while a slave himself, planting lime trees in Sierra Leone.

"A horrific storm at sea in 1748 led Newton to his new life as a minister and anti-slavery activist. He recollected both his deliverance from the storm, and his life without God, in his most famous creation."

In 1830 the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, despite bitter opposition from many Americans including Tennessee Congressman Davy Crockett who declared "I would sooner be honestly damned than hypocritically immortalized."

Cherokee men, women, and children were herded into makeshift forts with minimal facilities and food, then forced to travel 1000 miles west, often on foot. A detailed report of what is termed "one of the saddest episodes of our brief history," is shown at a North Georgia website.

A fine painting of the Trail and many more details are posted at a Missouri website which says: "One can only imagine the suffering that was taking place... Disrespectfully uprooted, homeless, they were embarking on a long journey in worn-out moccasins in the unforgiving dead of winter.

"Enduring river crossings, ice floes and relentless winds, they had only a blanket for warmth - if they were lucky. You imagine huddling around a fire, comforting your mother while she gets weaker and weaker ... wondering, as she, when the suffering would end, and whether she would even live to see it."

Frankie Sue Gilliam, editor of Twin Territories, "Oklahoma's Only Historical Newspaper," took pride in being an "Okie from Muskogee" and a Cherokee. She traced her ancestry back to Little Terrapin, one of 300 Cherokees who, having mostly supported England in the Revolutionary War, moved westward from Arkansas in 1817.

"Amazing Grace is a very important song to the Cherokees, and is often referred to as our national anthem," she told me 10 years ago.

You can listen to Danny Bloom's new version of the hymn, with vocals and guitar by Staffan Fenander:


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