Saturday, May 17, 2014

New Stanzas for Amazing Grace

"I dreamed I dwelled in a homeless place/ Where I was lost alone/ Folk looked right through me into space/And passed with eyes of stone.." Allen Ginsberg's "New Stanzas for Amazing Grace", an up-dated revisioning of an old song, was composed (in April 1994) at the request of Ed Sanders for his innovative project,  "The New Amazing Grace" (new lyrics, old melody), and was performed, in November of that year, as part of an all-star gathering at the Poetry Project (St Mark's Church) in New York.

Here (courtesy of the soundtrack of the indispensible Jerry Aronson's Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg DVD) is Paul Simon, giving his tasteful version (of Allen's poem): 

Here's South African vocal ensemble Ladysmith Black Mambazo, sometime collaborators with Simon, doing an a cappella version (of the original)  live 

Here's Pete Seeger (the late Pete Seeger) leading the audience in a spirited version of the song 

(and Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie, a good three decades earlier) 

Here's Johnny Cash

Here's Aretha Franklin

Here's Mahalia Jackson - 

The history and the story behind the original song is all pretty fascinating. Watch a short documentary about it here - or, for a shorter version, see here.

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