The President Sang Amazing Grace

Singer-songwriter Zoe Mulford wrote “The President Sang Amazing Grace” after the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina in June of 2015.  When Joan Baez heard it, she “knew [she] had to sing it”, and it appears on her album Whistle Down The Wind, released this past March.

Artist and film maker Jeff Scher used Baez’ recording as the backdrop for a video that, when I saw and heard it for the first time this morning, I knew I had to post.  I’ll let him speak:

 “[When Barack] Obama sang ‘Amazing Grace’ at the service for the Charleston Church shooting victims, it was deeply moving.  Somehow [he], with his humble singing voice, turned grief into grace. With humility, compassion, and a two-hundred-year-old hymn, he made us feel that the evil deeds of a sick individual could not shake the bonds of our common humanity.  [His performance expressed the emotions of] what it was like to be an American on that day— to have a great leader lift us up from despair.”

“I love [Baez’] voice at this stage in her career.  She still sings like an angel, but there is weather in her voice now, and it gives gravity to the sorrow.”

“I wanted to give the animation a human, non-digital feel. “I used watercolor and pastel because they have the most emotion of any mediums. I wanted the scenes to feel like they were blooming from the white of the paper, like a photograph in a developer or a memory emerging from a cloud. I wanted it to feel as if the scenes were being remembered… which is really the grand goal of the song.”

My intent with this blog has, from the beginning, been to present examples of things that I, personally, find beautiful.  Here, not only are the art and the music beautiful, but so is the notion of a leader embodying the grace of which he sang.

A young man came to a house of prayer
They did not ask what brought him there
He was not friend, he was not kin
But they opened the door and let him in

And for an hour the stranger stayed
He sat with them and seemed to pray
But then the young man drew a gun
And killed nine people, old and young

In Charleston in the month of June
The mourners gathered in a room
The President came to speak some words
And the cameras rolled and the nation heard

But no words could say what must be said
For all the living and the dead
So on that day and in that place
The President sang Amazing Grace
The President sang Amazing Grace

We argued where to place the blame
On one man’s hate or our nation’s shame
Some sickness of the mind or soul
And how the wounds might be made whole

But no words could say what must be said
For all the living and the dead
So on that day and in that place
The President sang Amazing Grace
My President sang Amazing Grace

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5 comments

  • Thanks for sharing that, Jeanne. I knew about President Obama singing, but I didn’t know about this beautiful song about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Yes…I remember thinking how appropriate when President Obama sang Amazing Grace at that service. And now this song from Joan Baez; how appropriate. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Barack Obama’s singing of Amazing Grace was one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen. He was really Healer in Chief at that moment. The poem is mesmerizing. Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

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