(Read all about Amy Grant after the video)
Amy Lee Grant (born November 25, 1960) is an American singer, songwriter, musician, author, media personality and actress. She is known for performing contemporary Christian music (CCM) and for a successful crossover to pop music in the 1980s and 1990s. She has been referred to as "The Queen of Christian Pop". As of 2009, she had sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, won six Grammy Awards and 22 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, and had the first Christian album ever to go Platinum. She was honored with a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006 for her contributions to the entertainment industry. She made her debut as a teenager, and gained fame in Christian music during the 1980s with such hits as "Father's Eyes", "El Shaddai", and "Angels". In the mid-1980s, she began broadening her audience and soon became one of the first CCM artists to cross over into mainstream pop on the heels of her successful albums Unguarded and Lead Me On. In 1986, she scored her first Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 song in a duet with Peter Cetera, "The Next Time I Fall". In 1991, she released the blockbuster album Heart in Motion which became her best-selling album to date, topping the Billboard Christian album chart for 32 weeks, selling five million copies in the U.S., and producing her second No. 1 pop single "Baby Baby". She is the author of several books, including a memoir, Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far, and a book based on the popular Christmas song Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song) which she co-wrote.
Early life and career
Born in Augusta, Georgia, Grant is the youngest of four sisters. Her family settled in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1967. She is a great-granddaughter of Nashville philanthropist A. M. Burton (founder of Life and Casualty Insurance Company, eponym of Nashville's Life & Casualty Tower, WLAC Radio, and WLAC-TV) and Lillie Burton. She has acknowledged the influence of the Burtons on her development as a musician, starting with their common membership in Nashville's Ashwood Church of Christ.
In 1976, Grant wrote her first song ("Mountain Man"), performed in public for the first time at Harpeth Hall School, the all-girls school she attended in Nashville. She recorded a demo tape for her parents with church youth-leader Brown Bannister. When Bannister was dubbing a copy of the tape, Chris Christian, the owner of the recording studio, heard the demo and called Word Records. He played it over the phone, and she was offered a recording contract, five weeks before her 16th birthday. In 1977, she recorded her first album titled Amy Grant, produced by Brown Bannister, who would also produce her next 11 albums. It was released in early 1978, one month before her high-school graduation. Toward the end of 1978 she performed her first ticketed concert after beginning her first year at Furman University. In May 1979, while at the album-release party for her second album, My Father's Eyes, Grant met Gary Chapman, who had written the title track and would become her first husband. Grant and Chapman toured together in mid-1979. In late 1980, she transferred to Vanderbilt University, where she was a member of the sorority Kappa Alpha Theta. Grant then made a few more albums before dropping out of college to pursue a career in music—Never Alone, followed by a pair of live albums in 1981 (In Concert and In Concert Volume Two), both backed by an augmented edition of the DeGarmo & Key band. It was during these early shows that Grant also established one of her concert trademarks: performing barefoot. To date, Grant continues to take off her shoes midway through performances, as she has said "it is just more comfortable."
1982 saw the release of her breakthrough album Age to Age. The album contains the signature track, "El Shaddai" (written by Michael Card) and the Grant-Chapman penned song, "In a Little While". "El Shaddai" was later awarded one of the "Songs of the Century" by the RIAA in 2001. Grant received her first Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Gospel Performance, as well as two GMA Dove Awards for Gospel Artist of the Year and Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year. Age to Age became the first Christian album by a solo artist to be certified gold (1983) and the first Christian album to be certified platinum (1985).
In the mid-1980s, Grant began touring and recording with young up-and-coming songwriter Michael W. Smith. Grant and Smith continue to have a strong friendship and creative relationship, often writing songs for or contributing vocals to each other's albums. During the 1980s, Grant was also a backup singer for Bill Gaither.
Grant followed this album with the first of her Christmas albums, which would later be the basis for her holiday shows. In 1984, she released another pop-oriented Christian hit, Straight Ahead, earning Grant her first appearance at the Grammy Awards show in 1985. The head of NBC took notice of Grant's performance and called her manager to book her for her own Christmas special.
Hardly had Grant established herself as the "Queen of Christian Pop" 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. Unguarded (1985) surprised 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 non-Christmas Christian song to hit Billboard Top 40 list, also reaching No. 7 on the Adult Contemporary chart. She also scored No. 18 on Billboard AC in 1986 with "Stay for Awhile". Grant scored her first Billboard No. 1 song in 1986 with "The Next Time I Fall", a duet with former Chicago singer/bassist Peter Cetera. That year, she also recorded a duet with singer Randy Stonehill for his Love Beyond Reason album, titled "I Could Never Say Goodbye", and recorded The Animals' Christmas with Art Garfunkel.
Lead Me On (1988) contained many songs that were about Christianity and love relationships, but some interpreted it as not being an obviously "Christian" record. Years later, Lead Me On would be chosen as the greatest Contemporary Christian album of all time by CCM Magazine. The mainstream song "Saved by Love" was a minor hit, receiving airplay on radio stations featuring the newly emerging Adult Contemporary format. The album's title song received some pop radio airplay and crossed over to No. 96 on the Billboard Hot 100, and "1974 (We Were Young)" and "Saved By Love" also charted as Adult Contemporary songs. In 1989, she appeared in a Target ad campaign, performing songs off the album.
In the mainstream
When Heart in Motion was released in 1991, many fans were surprised that the album was so clearly one of contemporary pop music. Grant's desire to widen her audience was frowned upon by the confines of the popular definitions of ministry at the time. The track "Baby Baby" (written for Grant's newborn daughter Millie, whose "six-week-old face was my inspiration,") became a pop hit (hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100), and Grant was established as a name in the mainstream music world. "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" (No. 2), "That's What Love Is For" (No. 7), "Good for Me" (No. 8), and "I Will Remember You" (No. 20). On the Adult Contemporary chart, all five songs were top 10 hits, with two of the five ("Baby Baby" and "That's What Love Is For") reaching No. 1. Many Christian fans remained loyal, putting the album atop Billboard Contemporary Christian Chart for 32 weeks. Heart in Motion is Grant's best-selling album, having sold over five million copies according to the RIAA. Grant followed the album with her second Christmas album, Home For Christmas in 1992, which included the song "Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song)", written by Chris Eaton and Grant, and would later be covered by many artists, including Donna Summer, Jessica Simpson (who acknowledged Grant as one of her favorite artists), Vince Gill, Sara Groves, Point of Grace, Gladys Knight, and Broadway star Barbara Cook.
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 pop hit "Lucky One" (No. 18 pop and No. 2 AC; No. 1 on Radio & Records) as well as the title track (a duet with country music star and future husband Vince Gill) (No. 37 pop) and a cover of Joni Mitchell's frequently covered "Big Yellow Taxi" (No. 67 pop) (in which she changed the line "And they charged the people a dollar and a half just to see'em" to "And then they charged the people 25 bucks just to see'em").
After she covered the 10cc song "The Things We Do for Love" for the Mr. Wrong soundtrack, Behind the Eyes was released in September 1997. The album struck a much darker note, leaning more towards downtempo, acoustic soft-rock songs, with more mature (yet still optimistic) lyrics. She called it her "razor blades and Prozac" album. Although "Takes a Little Time" was a moderate hit single, the album failed to sell like the previous two albums, which had both gone multi-platinum. Behind The Eyes was eventually certified Gold by the RIAA. The video for "Takes a Little Time" was a new direction for Grant; with a blue light filter, acoustic guitar, the streets and characters of New York City, and a plot, Grant was re-cast as an adult light rocker. She followed up "Behind The Eyes" with A Christmas To Remember, her third Christmas album, in 1999. The album was certified Gold in 2000.
In 2001, Grant sang "God Bless America" in front of a sellout crowd at the Owen County Fair Grounds in Spencer, Indiana. She dedicated her performance to the victims of 9/11, and officially started the Demolition Derby. Following the 9/11 attacks, Grant's "I Will Remember You" saw a resurgence in popularity as many radio DJs mixed a special tribute version of the song. That same year, Grant won $125,000 for charity on the "Rock Star Edition" of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Return to her roots
Grant returned to her roots with the 2002 release of an album of hymns titled Legacy... Hymns and Faith. The album featured a Vince Gill-influenced mix of bluegrass and pop and marked Grant's 25th anniversary in the music industry. Grant followed this up with Simple Things in 2003. The album did not have the success of her previous pop or gospel efforts. Soon after Simple Things, Grant and Interscope/A&M parted ways. The same year, Grant was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame by the Gospel Music Association, an industry trade organization of which she is a longstanding member, in her first year of eligibility. Grant released a sequel in 2005 titled Rock of Ages...Hymns and Faith.
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 was canceled at the end of its first season because of high production costs. After Three Wishes was canceled, Grant won her 6th Grammy Award for Rock of Ages... Hymns & Faith. In a February 2006 webchat, Grant stated she believes her "best music is still ahead".
In April 2006, a live CD/DVD titled Time Again...Amy Grant Live was recorded in Fort Worth, Texas, at Bass Performance Hall. (Grant's first paid public performance was at the Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth.) The concert was released on September 26, 2006. In addition to receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, media appearances included write-ups in CCM Magazine, and a performance on The View.
In a February 2007 web chat on her web site, Grant discussed a book she was working on titled Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far, saying, "It's not an autobiography, but more a collection of memories, song lyrics, poetry and a few pictures." The book was released on October 16, 2007. In November, it debuted at No. 35 on the New York Times Best Seller list. In the same web chat, Grant noted that she is "anxious to get back in the studio after the book is finished, and reinvent myself as an almost-50 performing woman".
2007 was Grant's 30th year in music. She left Word/Warner, and contracted with EMI CMG who re-released her regular studio albums as remastered versions on August 14, 2007. Marking the start of Grant's new contract is a career-spanning greatest hits album, with all the songs digitally remastered. The album was released as both a single-disc CD edition, and a two-disc CD/DVD Special Edition, the DVD featuring music videos and interviews.
Grant appeared with Gill on The Oprah Winfrey Show for a holiday special in December 2007. Grant has plans to appear on CMT, a Food Network special, the Gospel Music Channel, and The Hour of Power.
In February 2008, Grant joined the writing team from Compassionart as a guest vocalist at the Abbey Road studios, London, to record a song called "Highly Favoured", which was included on the album CompassionArt.
On June 24, 2008, Grant re-released her 1988 album, Lead Me On, in honor of its 20th anniversary. The two-disc release includes the original album and a second disc with new acoustic recordings, live performances from 1989, and interviews with Amy. Grant recreated the Lead Me On tour in the fall of 2008.
On June 27, 2008, Grant surprised everyone at the Creation Festival Northeast by being the special guest. She performed "Lead Me On" and a few other songs backed with the Hawk Nelson band. At the end of the concert, Grant returned to the stage and sang "Thy Word". She appeared on the 2008 album Anne Murray Duets: Friends & Legends singing "Could I Have This Dance".
On May 5, 2009, Grant released an EP containing two new songs, "She Colors My Day", and "Unafraid", as well as the previously released songs "Baby Baby" and "Oh How the Years Go By". The EP, exclusively through iTunes, benefited the Entertainment Industry Foundation's (EIF) Women's Cancer Research Fund.
In 2010, Grant released Somewhere Down the Road, featuring the hit single "Better Than a Hallelujah", which peaked at No. 8 on Billboard Top Christian Songs chart. When asked about the new album during an interview with CBN.com, Grant says, "... my hope is just for those songs to provide companionship, remind myself and whoever else is listening what's important. I feel like songs have the ability to connect us to ourselves and to each other, and to our faith, to the love of Jesus, in a way that conversation doesn't do. Songs kind of slip in and move you before you realize it."
In September 2012, Grant took part in a campaign called "30 Songs / 30 Days" to support Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, a multi-platform media project inspired by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's book.
Grant's next album, titled How Mercy Looks from Here, was released on May 14, 2013. The album was produced by Marshall Altman. The album reached No. 12 on the Billboard 200 chart, making it her highest charting album since 1997's Behind the Eyes. Two singles were released from the album: "Don't Try So Hard" and "If I Could See", both of which charted on the US Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart.
On August 19, 2014, she released an album of hits remixed by well known engineers and DJs. The album was titled In Motion: The Remixes. It charted at 110 on the US Billboard 200 chart and at number 5 on the US Dance chart. To promote the album, several new remix EPs were released on iTunes the following month including "Find a Way, "Stay for Awhile", "Baby Baby, "Every Heartbeat" and "That's What Love Is For". Due to club play of the remix of "Every Heartbeat", it charted at number 13 on the US Dance Chart. This marked her first appearance on that chart in 23 years. On September 30, 2014, Grant released a new single titled "Welcome Yourself". In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, proceeds of the single go to breast cancer research.
On February 12, 2015, she announced a new compilation album titled Be Still and Know... Hymns & Faith, to be released. The album was released on April 14, 2015 and charted at No. 7 in the U.S. on the Billboard Christian Albums chart. .
On June 19, 1982, Grant married fellow Christian musician Gary Chapman. Their marriage produced three children. In March 1999, she filed for divorce from Chapman, citing "irreconcilable differences," and the divorce was finalized three months later.
On March 10, 2000, Grant married country singer-songwriter Vince Gill, who had been previously married to country singer Janis Oliver of Sweethearts of the Rodeo. Grant and Gill have one daughter together, Corrina Grant Gill, born March 12, 2001.
In the November 1999 CCM Magazine, Grant explained why she left Chapman and married Gill:
"I didn't get a divorce because 'I had a great marriage and then along came Vince Gill'. Gary and I had a rocky road from day one. I think what was so hard—and this is (what) one of our counselors said—sometimes an innocent party can come into a situation, and they're like a big spotlight. What they do is reveal, by comparison, the painful dynamics that are already in existence."
Public views and perception
Among praise for her contributions to the Contemporary Christian genre, Grant has also generated controversy within the Christian community, from "complaints that she was too worldly and too sexy" to a "barrage of condemnation" following her divorce and remarriage.
In an interview early in her career, Grant stated, "I have a healthy sense of right and wrong, but sometimes, for example, using foul, exclamation-point words among friends can be good for a laugh." The article which was based on that interview was constructed in such a manner so as to make it appear as though Grant condoned premarital sex. Later Grant reflected on how the article misrepresented her views, stating: "We probably talked for two hours about sexual purity, but when the interview finally came out he worded it in such a way that it sounded like I condoned premarital sex. So I picked up that article and thought, 'You've made me say something I've never said, and you've totally disregarded two hours of Bible put in one flippant comment that I made about a moan.'"