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"Hey! Here's a fun song to sing when people die!"
Carly stalling for time at a wake in the episode "iPie"

Written in 1772 by John Newton, "Amazing Grace"--what with its positive messages of freedom and safety--is one of the most popular hymns in the Christian faith. It's so popular, in fact, that some people forget its religious context altogether. It's a standard at funerals.

And since it's not under copyright, and everyone knows it, it's damn near the only song you're ever going to hear at a funeral on TV or film. (It's this, or Danny Boy, people.) On a bagpipe ("One of the three songs that sound good on the bagpipes," it's been called.)[1] No ifs, ands, or buts. Or in any other situation that requires a hymn, for that matter. Even though almost every other hymn in is the public domain, too.

Fun fact: Amazing Freaking Grace, like many hymns, was not married with the tune it's sung to now until sometime in the mid-19th century.[2] Any example of it being sung to the same melody before then is a (admittedly understandable) case of Did Not Do the Research. On rarer occasions, the final verse ("When we've been there ten thousand years…") may be heard in a setting before it was actually added in the late 1800s. To hear what it would have sounded like in its old tune, check out this link of Sacred Harp singers (who also sing a lot of other old-timey hymns in a much more lively and bombastic fashion than what you might picture as typical dull church music).

Another fun fact: It uses the Common Meter, which is, naturally, very common. As such the same lyrics can be sung to the tune of The Beverly Hillbillies, Gilligan's Island, Camp Town Races Underground, or House of the Rising Sun, along with many other songs.

And another fun fact: The song is occasionally shown as being sung by American slaves prior to the Civil War, it being far more recognizable than any true "slave songs." Appropriately, it was written by a slave trader after he gave up the business and became a minister, which is the reason for the line "That saved a wretch like me."

Compare Small Reference Pools. Not to be confused with The Amazing Race.

Examples of Amazing Freaking Grace include:


Anime and Manga

  • The anime Steam Detectives by Kia Asamiya uses this in some intervals during the story, usually to great dramatic effects.
  • The fourth opening theme of Eureka Seven 'sakura' includes an operatic version of Amazing Grace. The truncated openings of the English broadcast omitted it.
    • You can still hear Amazing Grace in the background of the main Japanese vocals, and it's next to impossible to miss.
  • England from Axis Powers Hetalia has this as his cellphone ringtone.
  • Kagura sings this at Bob's nightclub (in English in both the dubbed and subbed versions, though while Monica Rial sang the song in the dubbed version, a different singer is used in the subbed version) in episode 5 of Speed Grapher.
    • You have to admit, though, that she does have a very good voice.
  • It's a Dream Melody in Sora no Woto.

 Kanata:"This sound strikes a chord. Whether in Rome or Helvetia, it is the same."


Film

  • Parodied in The Simpsons Movie. They play a funeral version of 'American Idiot'.
  • This is actually a plot point in Maverick: someone works out that two characters are related when they both sing "Amazing Grace" and get the same words wrong.
  • Famously used during Spock's funeral at the end of Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan... which seemed a little odd for a Vulcan. And yes, it featured Scotty playing the pipes.
  • Of course it is used in the William Wilberforce biopic movie Amazing Grace. Which made the Did Not Do the Research boo-boo mentioned above.
    • Since the original tune of the song is unknown, this is perhaps more an example of artistic license than a mistake.
      • The original tune could have been any number of Common Metre tunes in use in England in those days - but at the time, the Church of England (of which John Newton was an ordained priest) did not allow the singing of hymns during the service - they sang the psalms and the parts of the mass only - so there was no real reason to write a tune for it or attach it to a melody.
      • And, since no one knows the origin of the tune "New Britain" (the first recorded example is from the 1800s) it might have come from that time.
  • Exception: "Abide With Me" (itself a popular funeral hymn) is also used in the soundtrack for Twenty Eight Days Later during the scene where they find Jim's dead parents, mostly because using "Amazing Grace" would make whoever chose the soundtrack sound like a colossal bastard. It's sung by a female soloist. No bagpipes in sight.
  • The 1978 remake (the one before the re-remake and the even more recent re-re-remake) of Invasion of the Body Snatchers uses Amazing Grace (the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards version, which shot them to stardom) when Matthew runs towards a ship, seeing it as a means of escape. The music here represents hope that he will get away. However, as he approaches, he sees that the ship is being loaded with pods-and the music stops as someone changes records.
  • The Nixon-parody film Hail (AKA Hail To The Chief) has Judy Collins' version of the song playing as the (fictional) President's army of paramilitary thugs storm a colony of hippie protesters. The song cuts off when a Jesus-lookalike is shot dead.
  • American Gangster: A choir sings "Amazing Grace" while drug lord Frank Lucas and his brothers are arrested in a "round-em-up" montage.
  • Memphis Belle: Bomber crews sing "Amazing Grace" as they drive out to their planes on jeeps. It segues into a military march arrangement, and a montage of the ground crews preparing the bombers for takeoff.
    • And to make sure they were making full use of the trope, they sing "Danny Boy" (as their plane is going down I believe, but at least once earlier in the film too).
      • Yep, a big band jazz version of "Danny Boy" at the hangar dance, sung by none other than Harry Connick Jr.
  • Played during Tommy Callahan Jr's funeral in Tommy Boy, on bagpipes. Tommy III (Chris Farley) walks off into the distance after the funeral while the song plays.
  • The revised cut of Highlander II the Quickening inserts a bagpipe version of Amazing Grace during Ramirez's final moments. Considering he IS played by Sean Connery...
  • The "New Britain" tune is used in Braveheart during the funeral scenes. Considering the timeframe, probably a case of Did Not Do the Research


Literature


Live Action TV

  • This is practically a Duggar Family theme song.
  • Parodied in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Touch of Satan"; after a torch-bearing mob sings the song for a second time, Tom Servo sings, "This song is in/the public domain/that's why we used it twice!"
    • Crow also points a flaw in its use. "You can't use 'Amazing Grace' in a devil movie!"
    • Then it gets sung a third time.
  • Even though Firefly is set in the year 2518, guess what they're singing at the funeral at the end of "Heart of Gold"? This is justified in that Christianity is still a dominant religion in the 'Verse.
  • Used at a mass in a recent Eureka episode.
  • Another Exemption: The Doctor Who episode "Gridlock" uses "The Old Rugged Cross" and "Abide With Me" as the inspirational religious songs.
  • Used in the obscure The Twilight Zone-style horror series Night Visions, in one of the episodes made into the Made for TV Movie Shadow Realm, wherein an entire town with a pathological fear of music for fear of a man-eating monster known as The Beast, which can only be awakened by music, is convinced by the newcomer outsider that this monster is a superstition, and the entire town sings it. The Beast, apparently a giant ghost head, comes and presumably eats them all in the funniest bit of tragic irony you ever saw. The female lead's last words were "Why did I ever listen to you?!"
  • Played with in Judging Amy, where Amy and her partner go to the funeral of a colleague that no one really liked. When they get there, they find that the funeral is attended by only three relatives, who are all in deep grief. To cover the inevitable silence, Amy's partner starts singing "Amazing Grace", which deeply touches the relatives.
  • Reese sings an out-of-tune version of it in one Malcolm in the Middle episode. As quoted above, he doesn't know the right lyrics. To be fair, he is a Book Dumb.
  • In the Bones episode "The Double Death of the Dearly Departed", guess what they sing at the wake?
    • Swing Low, Sweet Chariot! Oh, and there might have been another. Maybe.
    • And then there's an interesting aversion when they're loading Vincent's casket into the hearse and they begin singing his favorite song. The song? Lime in the Coconut.
  • Sung at a memorial service for three murdered teenagers on Law and Order: Criminal Intent.
  • A truly unfortunate example from Sliders: washed-up R&B singer Rembrandt Brown is practicing for his "big comeback" (scat-singing the anthem at a Giants game), when his car intercepts a runaway wormhole and crashes on a parallel Earth. The initially self-absorbed character learns a lesson in patriotism when he's caught up in the war between the occupying USSR and the American underground -- and at the end of the show, over the bodies of slain rebels, delivers a sober, heartfelt rendition of... Amazing Freaking Grace. (Word of God says that he would have performed the anthem in a less crucial scene that had to be cut for time.)
  • ICarly: Sung at the pie maker's funeral in the episode "iPie". Carly sings it to distract from the fact that her friends are trying to steal his pie recipe.
  • On The Mentalist, it's to be assumed Amazing Freaking Grace was played at Bosco's funeral, judging by the way they sing it afterward. Bagpipes are mentioned.
  • Some ads for Lost season six revolve around the Willie Nelson version.
  • Cold Lazarus by Dennis Potter. A boy runs away from church where the choir is singing Amazing Grace -- the sweet music continues poignantly over the reveal that all these are memories a semi-revived frozen head, far in the future is being forced to relive: ironically reaching "was blind but now I see."
  • Sung on The Amazing Race Season 15 finale. By an Elvis impersonator. In a wedding chapel. In Las Vegas. Seriously. It was about par for the course for Season 15.
    • Season 17 includes a pair of college students/a capella singers, and their introduction clips showed them singing "Amazing Race".
  • Performed during a proposal on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Remind me again what redemption has to do with a marriage proposal?
  • Diane calms a crowd of angry mourners of one of Coach's friends in a second-season episode of Cheers, "Coach Buries a Grudge" with a song. I'll give you three guesses.
  • The end is played in an early episode of Dexter when LaGuerta goes to the funeral of the suspected Ice Truck Killer, who turned out to be another victim. Only the end is heard, though, and the words "Amazing Grace" are never actually spoken.
  • A Cherokee version is used in the Wonderfalls episode "Totem Mole". The situation fits the song's lyrics very well, since a tough, cold-hearted lawyer has just found her way to spirituality.
  • Used in General Hospital, when Brenda Barrett returned from the dead, as she encountered former lover Sonny in a church courtyard during a rainstorm.
  • In the Criminal Minds episode "A Real Rain," "Amazing Grace" is played on the bagpipes at a police funeral. Officer Nora Bennett, watching this on television, says, "I can never get that sound out of my head. It wakes me up at night. If there was any justice, cop killers would have to hear it for an eternity."
  • The Adventures of Brisco County Jr: Lord Bowler sings Amazing Grace to Brisco as he's dying, after being shot in the gut. (He gets better.)


Music

  • Béla Fleck and the Flecktones bass god Victor Wooten plays this entirely in harmonics for his solo spot in most shows, to pretty amazing effect.
    • Chris Squire was doing that twenty-five years ago.
  • Dropkick Murphys often play a version of this at their concerts, adding in rhythm guitar and bagpipe riffs. Moshing ensues.
  • Flatfoot 56 plays this at every show. At one show there was a brawl and the band walked off stage and ended the show. They came back out a few minutes later to play Amazing Grace, saying that they had never ended a show without playing that song first, and that they didn't want that show to be the first time.
  • The end of Grace Jones's "Williams' Blood."
  • Pat Metheny's "Estupenda Graca" from the 1981 Offramp album is a remix of Amazing Grace, but with Nana Vasconcelos on vocals and berimbau!
  • Ani DiFranco had a studio version on her cd "Dilate" (1996) and has a kickass live version on "Living in Clip" (1997)
  • U2 used this as an intro to "Where the Streets Have No Name" during their 360° tour. Being there to sing along to it with close to 100,000 other people was a surreal experience.
  • Craig Morgan name-drops it in both "That's What I Love About Sunday" and "Tough"...
  • ...as does Ray Stevens in "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex"...
  • ...and Jason Michael Carroll in "Where I'm From", to the point that he even quotes the first two lines at the end.


Radio

  • Subverted by A Prairie Home Companion: in one episode, Garrison Keillor and some other people sing "Amazing Grace" to the tune of the Mickey Mouse Club Song (you know, the one that goes "M-I-C, K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E").


Theater


Video Games


Web Comics


Web Original

  • Not sung, but quoted (for... some reason) in Chapter 7 of Broken Saints, when Raimi is going crazy due to a constant stream of lucid dreaming.
  • Paw plays this song on a kazoo during Ma-Ti's funeral in Suburban Knights.


Western Animation

  • Exception: Clone High substitutes Franz Schubert's Ellens dritter Gesang (a.k.a. "Ave Maria"). It turns out that Genghis Khan is an amazing tenor.
  • Another parody: in Futurama, Fry's imagined death has his favorite song "I'm Walking On Sunshine", also played by the bagpipes.
  • Used hilariously in an episode of Batman the Animated Series, where the Joker eulogizes the believed-to-be-dead Batman, and decides to murder his supposed killer by sealing him into a coffin and rolling it into an acid pool. The end of the scene is accompanied by Harley Quinn playing the song on a kazoo. Given that this is Joker, both conveying genuine sadness and savagely funny mockery of funeral tropes at the same time was likely his intended goal.
    • When they recorded this scene, they were only able to do one take because when Arleen Sorkin (Harley) had finished, everyone was laughing too hard to do another take.
  • Parodied in the South Park episode "Ike's Wee Wee": At Ike's funeral, conducted by Father Maxi dressed as a rabbi, the piper plays "Hava Nagila." As the boys walk away from the funeral, Kenny falls in an open grave and is crushed by the tombstone, and the funeral reconvenes around the grave, the priest changes to his normal appearance (Kenny's Catholic), and the piper plays... "Hava Nagila."
    • And has everyone covering their ears.
  • Bottomtooth (the guy from Family Guy with the huge underbite) sings the song after he refuses to sign Brian's petition to legalise gay marriage in Rhode Island.
  • In Drawn Together, an instrumental version plays in the background any time a character delivers a moral of some sort.
  • The Ren and Stimpy Show played the song in, appropriately enough, "Terminal Stimpy".

Notes

  1. The other two are 'Danny Boy' and 'Scotland the Brave'.
  2. The tune is called "New Britain"
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