Amy Lee Grant (born November 25, 1960) is an American singer-songwriter, author, media personality and occasional actress, best known for her contemporary Christian music.
Grant is considered to be one of the most important pioneers of the Contemporary Christian music genre. She has had a strong influence on Christian music and the Christian culture in the United States and beyond. She is the best-selling Christian music artist of all time, and is the 19th best-selling female solo artist in the United States. Grant also launched a successful mainstream pop music career in the mid-1980s, releasing a number of top 40 pop and Adult Contemporary singles over the next twenty years, including several #1 hits. She is also well known for several successful Christmas music albums. Grant was born in Augusta, Georgia.
Grant made her debut in 1977 as a teenager, and scored her first number-one Christian radio hit two years later. In 1982, she released her breakthrough album, Age to Age, which became the first Contemporary Christian music album to be certified platinum and the first by a solo artist to be certified gold.
By 1985, her music began to reach a wider audience, when her albums Unguarded and "The Collection" crossed over onto mainstream charts. This feat was reproduced in 1991 when her album Heart In Motion became a best-seller and the single "Baby Baby" became a number one pop hit.
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Grant continued to record pop-oriented albums and did not make another full gospel album until 2002, with the record Legacy...Hymns and Faith. In 2006, Grant hosted her own reality television show on NBC, called Three Wishes.
As of 2007, Grant remains the best-selling Contemporary Christian music singer, having sold over 30 million units worldwide. Grant has won six Grammy Awards, 21 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, and had the first Christian album ever to go Platinum. Heart in Motion is her best selling album, which has exceeded sales of 5 million.
After she signed to a record company at the age of sixteen, Amy 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. She is a graduate of Harpeth Hall School and was an English major at Furman University and later 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. 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. These were followed by a pair of live albums in 1981 (Amy Grant In Concert and In Concert Volume Two), both backed by an augmented edition of The DeGarmo & Key band. During the 1970s, Grant was also a backup singer for Bill Gaither.
1982 saw the release of her breakthrough album Age to Age. The breakthrough album contained 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.
Grant followed up this album with the first of her Christmas albums - albums that later would be the basis for her trademark holiday shows. In 1984, she released 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" 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 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 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, entitled "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 #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 of the album.
In the mainstream
Grant during her Behind the Eyes tour in 1998.
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 number 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" (#2), "That's What Love Is For" (#7), "Good For Me" (#8), and "I Will Remember You" (#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 #1. Many Christian fans remained loyal, since the album also topped the Billboard's Contemporary Christian Chart for 32 weeks. Heart in Motion is Grant's best-selling album, having sold over 5 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, 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" (#18 pop and #2 AC; #1 on Radio & Records) as well as the title track (a duet with country music star and future husband Vince Gill) (#37 pop) and a cover of Joni Mitchell's frequently-covered "Big Yellow Taxi" (#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).
Grant participated in Lifetime's 1st Annual "Girls & Guitars" benefit, singing numerous songs, including a duet with Melissa Etheridge on "You Can Sleep While I Drive".
After she covered the 10cc song "The Things We Do For Love" for the Mr. Wrong soundtrack, Behind the Eyes 1997 was released in September of 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.
Return to gospel
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 have the success of her previous pop or gospel efforts. However, soon after Simple Things, Grant and Interscope/A&M parted ways. True to all of her work, spiritual themes weave in and out of the everyday experience. 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 to her hymns collection in 2005 titled Rock of Ages... Hymns & Faith.
Although neither of her latest hymn releases have captured the popularity of her previous gospel career, Grant still remains a popular concert draw and enjoys popularity amongst both fan bases. For years in the 1990s and early 2000s, she toured in November and December for her Christmas and holiday tours. Often her husband and many special guests performed along with her on stage. Grant is known for her live performances of many of her hit songs. She also has been known to perform songs of fellow female vocalists, most notably, "Big Yellow Taxi", made famous by Joni Mitchell, which she covers at most large venues and recorded for the House of Love album.
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 and 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, Amy stated she believes her "best music is still ahead".
In April 2006, a live CD/DVD entitled 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, TX.) 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, Amy discussed a book she was working on entitled "Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far": "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 #35 on the New York Times Best Seller list. In the same web chat, Amy 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 2-Disc CD/DVD Special Edition, the DVD featuring music videos and interviews.
Grant appeared with Gill on The Oprah Winfrey Show in December 2007, for a holiday special. 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 Northeast Festival 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".
In May 2009 for Mother's Day, Amy released an EP on iTunes containing two new songs, "She Colors My Day," and "Unafraid," as well as the older songs "Baby Baby" and "Oh How The Years Go By."
In a blog post on AmyGrant.com on May 12, 2009, Amy's manager wrote:
"Amy is currently enjoying a very fruitful period of songwriting -- the most productive season of new music in a lot of years. But she is also in a place where she is writing for the pure joy of writing and trying to capture what compels her without worrying about radio play or touring. It is a very creative and freeing process for her. She is also working as an independent artist right now and is recording music for the first time without a label. Again, a very freeing process for her as an artist for the here and now."
She continued, "different than other albums in her past, Amy is not currently recording an 'album.' Instead, she is enjoying going in with different producers and exploring different sounds and paths without worrying about the cohesive whole. That is not to say she doesn't believe in the impact of a full album (she does), but after 30 years of making music she is enjoying the creative process of being in the moment and letting each song speak for itself rather than how they all fit into a whole project. So for now, we are going to continue to release songs as they come in either singles or ep format...and those releases will be digital."
Grant married fellow Christian musician Gary Chapman on June 19, 1982. Their marriage produced three children: Matthew Garrison Chapman (born 1987), Gloria Mills Chapman (called "Millie", born 1989), and Sarah Cannon Chapman (born 1992), who was named after country legend Minnie Pearl, a family friend. (Pearl's real name was Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon.)
In 1994 Grant recorded a video with Vince Gill. As stated in a 2002 interview, Grant was so moved by Gill that she went up to him while he was singing, gave him a big hug, and said "I just needed to hug you all night." Citing "irreconcilable differences", Grant filed for divorce from Chapman in March 1999, and the divorce was final in June 1999.
On March 10, 2000, Grant married Vince Gill, who had been previously married to country singer Janis Oliver of Sweethearts of the Rodeo. Grant and Gill have a daughter together, Corinna Grant Gill, born March 12, 2001.
In the December 1999 Baptist Standard, 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, Amy 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." Within the same article, Grant expressed an opinion that those most opposed to premarital sex and rock music often base their views in part on having experienced emotional distress. "'It seems to me,' she says as an after-thought, 'that people who are most adamantly against premarital sex have experienced some kind of pain in their own lives. Like the people who say absolutely no to rock 'n' roll. Chances are it has something to do with a past sadness.'"