Grant, Amy (Singer/Songwriter)
Amy Lee Grant (born November 25, 1960 in Augusta, Georgia) is an American singer-songwriter whose music has strong Christian themes. She was initially most successful in the Contemporary Christian music genre, and is notable for being one of the first CCM artists to have successfully crossed over into the mainstream pop music market. She has won multiple Grammy and Dove awards and was elected to the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2003. To date she has 5 gold and 6 platinum albums.
Signed to a record company at the age of sixteen, Grant’s first, self-titled album (largely self-composed) in 1977, was a runaway success in terms of the Christian music market of the time. A graduate of Harpeth Hall School and then an English major at Vanderbilt University, Grant made a few more albums before dropping out of college to pursue a career in music. These albums included 1979’s My Father’s Eyes (the title track written by Grant’s future first husband, singer-songwriter Gary Chapman) and Never Alone in 1980.
The year 1982 marked a turning point in both Grant’s career and personal life. After marrying Chapman in June, her album Age to Age forced critics to sit up and take notice. The breakthrough album contained the now signature track, “El Shaddai” and the Grant-Chapman penned song, “In A Little While.” She was now a star. Grant received her first Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Gospel Performance, as well two Dove Awards for Gospel Artist of the Year and Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year.
Grant followed up this album with the first of her Christmas albums – albums that later would be the basis for her trademark holiday shows. 1984 saw the release of another pop-oriented Christian hit, Straight Ahead, earning Grant her first appearance at the Grammy Awards show.
Hardly had Grant established herself as the “Queen of Christian Pop”, however, when she changed directions to widen her fan base (and hence her musical message). Her goal was to become the first Christian singer-songwriter who was also successful as a contemporary pop singer, being successful in both genres. 1985’s Unguarded shocked some fans for its very mainstream sound (and Grant’s leopard-print jacket, in four poses for four different covers). “Find a Way,” from Unguarded, became the first Christian song to hit Billboard’s Top 40 list, also reaching #7 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Amy Grant scored her first Billboard Number One hit in 1986 with “The Next Time I Fall”, a breezy duet with former Chicago singer/bassist Peter Cetera.
1988’s Lead Me On, released after Grant had become a mother and undergone considerable strain in her marriage, is considered her most mature album, both lyrically and musically. This album, too, contained many songs that were still about Christianity and love relationships, but some interpreted it as not being an obviously “Christian” record; though the album’s title track is now considered a CCM classic. (Years later, Lead Me On would be chosen as the greatest Contemporary Christian album of all time by CCM Magazine.) This song talks about intense sufferings among people through racism, and that the comfort they seek, as their lives are threatened, is in their relationships with God. The track “1974” is clearly about young people experiencing the salvation of Christ for the first time; as the lyrics state, “Quite a change, somewhere we had crossed a big line, down upon our knees we had tasted Holy wine and nothing could sway us in a lifetime.” The mainstream song, “Saved by Love”, was a minor hit, receiving airplay on radio stations featuring newly emerging Adult Contemporary format. It gives a message of great love for family, affected by her greatest love for Jesus. “Faithless Heart” is an honest, heartfelt song about resisting inner temptations of infidelity. “What About The Love?” talks about the absence of faith in certain worldly things and the importance of resisting judgment of others. Other songs included were engaging love songs, including “If These Walls Could Speak”, which, like “Saved By Love”, includes a message about love of family and children. This was a deeply introspective album that she dedicated to one of her children, so that they could understand her at that time in her life. The album’s fiery title song received some Top 40 airplay (including on WCZY-FM in Detroit) and crossed over to #96 on the Billboard Hot 100, and “1974 (We Were Young)” and “Saved By Love” also charted AC.
Nevertheless, when Heart in Motion was released three years later, many fans were shocked and outraged that the album was so clearly one of contemporary pop music. The track “Baby Baby” (written for Grant’s newborn daughter, Millie, whose “six week old face was my inspiration”), however, became a massive hit (hitting number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart), and Grant was established as a name in the mainstream music world. The music video also created outrage in the industry, for she danced and flirted with a model (Jme Stein), not her husband. When interviewed about it, she thought the song was more relatable to others when shown in a romantic light. “Baby Baby” received Grammy nominations for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Record and Song of the Year (although it failed to win in any of those categories). Four other hits from the album made the pop top 20: “Every Heartbeat” (#2), “That’s What Love Is For” (#7), “Good For Me” (#8), and “I Will Remember You” (#20). On the AC chart, all five songs were top 10 hits with two of the five (“Baby Baby” and “That’s What Love Is For”) making it all the way to #1. Many Christian fans remained loyal, though, as the album also topped the Billboard’s Contemporary Christian Chart for 32 weeks. Heart in Motion is her best-selling album, having sold over 5 million copies. Tracks like “Hope Set High” and “Ask Me” (the tale of an abused child who, as a grown woman, comes to terms with her past through her faith in God) were songs with clear religious messages.
House of Love in 1994 continued in the same vein, boasting catchy pop songs mingled with spiritual lyrics. The album was a multi-platinum success and produced the minor pop hit “Lucky One” (#18 pop and #2 AC) as well as the title track (a duet with country music star, and Grant’s future second husband, Vince Gill) (#37 pop) and a cover of Joni Mitchell’s frequently-covered “Big Yellow Taxi” (#67 pop).
In 1995, Amy was interviewed, pointing to Hootie & The Blowfish and Sheryl Crow, with their acoustic guitars and more rock-oriented music, and wondered what she was still doing on the pop side of things. She knew she could bring her unique voice and songwriting skills to a different music genre. As part of this newfound direction, she participated in Lifetime’s 1st Annual “Girls & Guitars” benefit, singing a number of songs, including a duet with Melissa Etheridge of “You Sleep While I Drive.”
After covering the 10cc song “The Things We Do For Love” for the Mr. Wrong soundtrack,1997’s Behind the Eyes was released in September. BTE struck a much darker note, leaning more toward downtempo, acoustic soft-rock songs with more mature (yet still optimistic) lyrics (such as the radio hit “Takes A Little Time”). She called it her “razor blades and Prozac” album. The video for “Takes A Little Time” was certainly a new direction for Grant; with a blue light filter, acoustic guitar, the streets and characters of New York City, and a plot, Amy was re-cast as an adult light rocker.
Speaking of new directions, soon it became clear that Grant’s marriage to Chapman was at an end. The two separated and divorced in 1999, disappointing many Christian fans. In 2000 Grant married Vince Gill, who divorced country singer Janis Gill of Sweethearts of the Rodeo.
After giving birth to fourth child Corinna Grant Gill, Grant returned to her gospel music roots with the 2002 release of Legacy… Hymns and Faith. The album featured a Vince Gill-influenced mix of bluegrass and gospel and marked Grant’s 25th anniversary in the music industry. Grant followed this up with the pop release Simple Things in 2003. The album did not see the success of her previous pop efforts, however. It was rumored that the pop album was held back for release after the hymns album, due to the controversy surrounding Grant’s divorce from Chapman with Gill waiting in the wings. After their marriage, the two admitted having loved each other for a “long time”. Grant argued that the timing of these album releases was changed because she and her second husband were expecting a child together. On her website and in an interview on Lifetime Television, she stated: “Then life happened.” Grant also stated that her record company threatened her with a lawsuit if she didn’t finish Simple Things. Not coincidentally, soon after Simple Things, Amy and Interscope/A&M parted ways.
Grant released a sequel to her hymns collection in 2005 titled Rock of Ages. Despite publicly musing that life would be easier if she weren’t working, Grant joined the reality television phenomenon by hosting Three Wishes, a show in which she and a team of helpers make wishes come true for small-town residents. The show debuted on NBC in the fall of 2005, but has since been cancelled.
After Three Wishes was cancelled, Grant won her 6th Grammy Award for Rock of Ages, and announced the recording of a live CD/DVD in April 2006.
In a February, 2006 webchat, Amy stated she believes her “best music is still ahead.” Amy has always been known as a musical chameleon, from gospel girl to christian rocker, pop star, acoustic singer, and most recently, country and bluegrass, and many of her fans wonder what will be next.
Grant is a longstanding member of the Gospel Music Association (GMA), which annually presents the Dove Awards and maintains the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.