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Tennessee lawmakers vote to make Dolly Parton's version of 'Amazing Grace' state hymn

Tennessee lawmakers vote to make Dolly Parton's version of 'Amazing Grace' state hymn

The Tennessee House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to pass legislation to make Dolly Parton’s version of “Amazing Grace” the state's official hymn.

The bill, which local media reports passed the state chamber in 91-1 vote this past week, would amend a portion of the Tennessee Code regarding state symbols to make the song as recorded by Parton the state’s official hymn.

The legislation, introduced by state Rep. Mike Sparks (R) and state Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D), would take effect immediately upon becoming law. The bill now awaits consideration in the state Senate.

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In the bill's text, lawmakers pointed to the historical significance of the song, which John Newton wrote in the 1760s, as well as the former English slave ship captain turned abolitionist’s past. 

“Mr. Newton’s conversion from a merchant and slaver to a man of faith led him to speak out against slavery, and although many of England's large port cities greatly benefited from the slave trade, Mr. Newton and other social critics began to speak out against the practice,” the bill states.

“By the 1780s, William Wilberforce, a member of Parliament and the nephew of one of Newton's friends in London, added his voice to this critique, and Mr. Wilberforce was inspired by and felt that his own conversion paralleled Mr. Newton's,” the text continues, “and upon Mr. Newton's encouragement used his money and influence to support abolition of the slave trade.”

“Mr. Newton continued to support the abolishment of slavery until it was finally passed by the House of Commons in 1804, and he spent the remainder of his life as a priest in Olney, working to help others find a deeper understanding and love through their faith,” the text adds. 

The song was written during Newton’s first year as a preacher at a parish in Olney, England.

The bill noted that the song has been recorded by “various artists with strong connections to Tennessee,” including Parton, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Little Richard and Garth Brooks.

The bill’s passage comes weeks after another Tennessee lawmaker introduced legislation that sought erect a statue of Parton on the state's Capitol grounds. 

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While Parton expressed to gratitude to lawmakers for the consideration in February, she called for the plans to be abandoned at the time, saying then that the move would be inappropriate. 

“Given all that is going on in the world, I don’t think putting me on a pedestal is appropriate at this time,” the singer wrote on social media. 

“I hope, though, that somewhere down the road several years from now or perhaps after I’m gone if you still feel I deserve it, then I’m certain I will stand proud in our great State Capitol as a grateful Tennessean,” Parton said.

Around the time, Parton had also been attracting attention for $1 million donation she made to help fund research for Moderna's coronavirus vaccine.