Joan Baez honored the victims of the 2015 Charleston church shooting and Barack Obama’s tearful eulogy at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the new video for “The President Sang Amazing Grace.” The song appears on Baez’s new album, Whistle Down the Wind.
Filmmaker and painter Jeff Scher directed the video for “The President Sang Amazing Grace” using watercolor and pastel to render the Emanuel AME church, Obama’s visit and the portraits of the nine men and women killed by Dylann Roof.
“I wanted to give the animation a human, non-digital feel,” Scher told The Atlantic. “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.”
Singer-songwriter Zoe Mulford wrote “The President Sang Amazing Grace” not long after the 2015 mass shooting. Baez was compelled to record her own version after hearing Mulford’s on the radio. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Baez said, “I heard that song and I just pulled over. It’s so expressive of my thoughts and feelings, which are pretty fucking gloomy, but she did it in such a beautiful way that’s as dark as it is beautiful.”