When you start talking about the greatest gospel hymns of all time, “Amazing Grace” usually tops the list. And rightfully so. Along with “How Great Thou Art” and “I’ll Fly Away,” “Amazing Grace” is easily one of the most recognizable gospel songs. In fact, it’s one of the most recognizable songs—in any genre.
Penned in 1772 by poet/clergyman John Newton, “Amazing Grace” has been recorded thousands of times over the last 100 years. Artists from all genes have sung the praises of the spiritual tune, including Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Dianna Ross, Willie Nelson, and many, many more.
Let’s take a look at three versions of “Amazing Grace” by Dolly Parton, George Jones, and Alan Jackson.
Dolly Parton recorded “Amazing Grace” on her 1999 album, Precious Memories. The 12-song offering featured a number of gospel standards, including “Sweet By and By,” “Old Time Religion,” and more. Dolly performed many of the album’s songs during her 1999 TNN TV special, Dolly Parton’s Precious Memories.
“There’s a whole lot of America written in the poetry of gospel music,” said Dolly to close the TNN show. “And whether you know it or not, there’s a lot of gospel music in each and every one of us.”
Recently, Dolly’s version of “Amazing Grace” has gained support to become one of Tennessee’s State Songs.
George Jones recorded “Amazing Grace” on his 1974 album, In a Gospel Way. If you crunch the numbers, that was right in the midst of George’s hell-raising days. Nonetheless, George had a fondness for the gospel music he was raised on. And he could always croon in the studio, regardless of what was going on outside of it.
In addition, Jones re-recorded the tune in 2002, which was posthumously released on his 2013 album, George Jones: Amazing Grace. The Possum loved the song so much that Randy Travis honored George with a version of “Amazing Grace” during Jones’ public funeral service at the Grand Ole Opry in 2013.
Alan Jackson returned to the gospel music he loved as a child by recording Precious Memories in 2006. He packed 15 of his favorite gospel tunes on that album. Seven years later, he dropped Precious Memories Volume II, with 11 more hymns, including “Amazing Grace.”
Alan revealed to Country Weekly magazine in 2013 that he was initially hesitant to record what turned out to be the album’s highlight. “I didn’t really want to do that one because I felt like it’s been done a lot,” said Alan. “But [wife] Denise said, ‘I love that song. I want you to do it on this album.’ After I did it, it’s one of my favorites on there.”