Tennessee moved to enact a bill making Dolly Parton's rendition of "Amazing Grace" an official song of the state if passed.
Tennessee House Bill 0938 was introduced on Feb. 11 by Republican Representative Mike Sparks and Democrat Senator Raumesh Akbari. The legislation aims to "recognize songs of historic significance that have influenced" the state, Church Leaders wrote.
The legislation amended Tennessee Code 4-1-302, the section pertaining to "state songs." Currently, the state has seven official songs. These include "My Homeland, Tennessee" by Roy Lamonth Smith and Nell Grayson Taylor, "When It's Iris Time In Tennessee" by Willa Mae Waid, "My Tennessee" by Francis Hannah Tranum, "The Tennessee Waltz" by Pee Wee King and Redd Stewart, "Rocky Top" by Boudleaux and Felice Bryant and "Tennessee" by John R. Bean. The bill also illustrated how John Newton came up with the song.
Aside from Parton, the bill stated that "Amazing Grace" was also recorded by other artists who have "strong connections" to Tennessee, such as Elvis Presley, Tennessee Ernie Ford, the Spirit of Memphis Quartet, the Fairfield Four, Willie Nelson, Aretha Franklin, Little Richard, the Oak Ridge Boys, Merle Haggard, Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks.
If enacted into law, Parton's interpretation of the song will be added as the state's eighth official song.
The bill was passed in the House and was referred to the Naming & Designating Committee on Feb. 22.
Englishman Newton wrote the song in 1772. He was a former slave trader who brought slaves from Africa to England. But in 1754, he became ill during a violent storm at sea, converted to Christianity and turned his back from the slave trade. He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1764. He also became a song writer, composing 280 hymns. Among his compositions is the world-famous "Amazing Grace."
Biography said that the song is performed around 10 million times yearly and has appeared in more than 11,000 albums. It became hugely popular during the Civil War and Vietnam War.
Last month, Parton rejected the plan to build a statue in her honor at the Tennessee capitol.
In 2020, she donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University for COVID-19 research. The donation helped fund the creation of Moderna vaccine. Democrat Representative John Windle introduced the bill in January, seeking to recognize the singer's philanthropy. But Parton posted a statement on Twitter, grateful of the plan but opposed the proposal.
"I want to thank the Tennessee legislature for their consideration of aa bill to erect a statue of me
On the Capitol grounds. I am honored and humbled by their intention but I have asked the leaders of the state legislature to remove the bill from any and all considerations," she began.
"Given all that is going on in the world, I don't think putting me on a pedestal is appropriate at this time. 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," the singer continued.
"In the meantime, I'll continue to try to do good work to make this great state proud," Parton concluded.