Since I could only attempt to begin to do this film justice, I’ll paste a few words hear that might entice you to devour it yourself…

Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace Is a Truly Religious Experience

The 1972 concert film, finally released, is a worthy tribute to one of the finest recording sessions in music history.


Early in Amazing Grace, Reverend Dr. James Cleveland—the Grammy-winning choir director and, to many, the “King of Gospel”—reminds us why we’re here. This is a “religious service,” he says to the bustling crowd filling the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, in Los Angeles. But it’s also a recording session. Here are the mics; there’s the recording equipment; and all around is the camera crew assigned to make a movie.

“And if things should happen,” says Cleveland at the start, “and we have to take it over—you know how that is. So if you said ‘Amen’ on it first, and we have to take it over, when we get back to that spot you say ‘Amen’ again, hear?”

Cleveland already knows what listeners of Amazing Grace, the album being recorded over course of those two days in January of 1972, would soon discover for themselves: gospel is a collective experience. It is as much a matter of the voices soaring over the pews as it is of the voices amplifying that spirit by shouting back. It’s the mere fact of wanting to shout back in the first place—of being impelled to catch the spirit by forces much greater than you, no matter how secular you are. Amazing Grace—Aretha Franklin’s canonical gospel masterpiece—is a case in point. So please, have your Amens ready… Read More