On November 25, 1960, Amy Grant was born in Georgia, but she has called Nashville home since she was a baby, and her family is originally from Nashville. She started playing the guitar when she was a student at Ensworth grammar school. (superiorpics.com) By the time she was a student at Harpeth Hall, Grant was writing songs which she played for fellow students and at the church her family attended, Belmont Church on Music Row.
According to amygrant.com, when she was 15, Amy Grant took a part-time job sweeping floors and demagnetizing tapes in a Nashville studio. Her friend, Brown Bannister, let her use the studio to duplicate a tape of her original songs. An executive at Word Records heard the tape and played it over the phone for other company executives, and Grant was signed almost immediately. At the same time, Grant began appearing at Koinonia Coffeehouse, a ministry of the Belmont Church to the youth culture of the 1970s. Koinonia became part of Amy Grant’s grass-roots fan base, and years after she became famous, tour buses would stop in front of Koinonia when I worked there to show tourists where Amy Grant got her start.
In 1977, her debut album Amy Grant was released, and the gospel music world was introduced to the sweet, sometimes whimsical songs of the teenage singer-songwriter. By 1979 she released her first gold album record, Father’s Eyes. The title single from that album was written by Christian musician Gary Chapman. That song would change my life and introduce me to the Christian music industry a few years later. Grant married Gary Chapman in 1982. (wikipedia.org)
As reported in Examiner, Grant’s next breakthrough was in 1982 when her album Age to Age reached platinum and scored a Grammy for Best Pop Gospel Performance. Three years later, Unguarded became the first gospel album to achieve mainstream success, hitting the pop top 40, going platinum and winning another Grammy. The single “Find a Way,” from Unguarded became the first Christian song to ever make the Billboard Top 40 list.
The following year, Grant recorded a duet with Peter Cetera, “The Next Time I Fall,” on Cetera’s Solitude/Solitaire album which became Grant’s first Billboard number one hit in 1986. (Examiner) Grant release her Lead Me On album in 1988 which did not do as well in the secular market, but was later named the #1 Christian album of all time by CCM Magazine, with the title song featured in WOW #1s: 31 of the Greatest Christian Music Hits Ever. (wikipedia.org)
In 1991, Grant returned with Heart in Motion, which put her on the mainstream music map with songs like “Baby Baby” and “That’s What Love Is For” reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Baby Baby” caused a minor stir with some who thought the song was an inappropriate love song for a Christian wife and mother to be singing, but Grant wrote the song about her infant daughter. Heart in Motion achieved sales of over 5 million copies, earned 5x RIAA platinum certification, and became the best-selling Christian music album ever released.
By this time, Amy Grant was a world-famous celebrity and the multi-platinum House of Love cemented her place as a popular Adult Contemporary artist in 1994. However, her next project Behind the Eyes, released three years later, revealed a dark period in her life surrounding her crumbling marriage to Chapman. The couple would divorce in 1999, and Grant married Vince Gill in 2000. (wikipedia.org)
Grant celebrated her 25th anniversary in music by releasing Legacy…Hymns and Faith signaling a return to gospel music in 2002. (Examiner) Since then her Christmas albums have become a staple of the holiday season; she has been an actress in several films, had her own television show (“Three Wishes”), become an author, and supported may charities including her annual Amy Grant Yard Sale and the recent Help Haiti LIVE concert event in Nashville & L.A. Her pop hits continue to be played on the radio, and she continues to record successful gospel albums with a new album releasing in March 2010. (Examiner)
This is not to say she has done it without controversy, but through a failed marriage, remarriage and the ups and downs of life, Amy Grant has remained true to her faith and true to herself. She has been unflinchingly honest in her music, life and interviews, and her music has reached people like me like no other musician.
I cannot remain objective when writing about Amy Grant. Two of her albums virtually saved my life, and certainly helped salvage my sanity when I was going through extreme personal crisis. During a lonely time of estrangement from my family due to my own divorce, I discovered Father’s Eyes and played it over and over as a young woman who was coming to grips with the fact that I may not be every mother’s dream for her little girl. In 1991, during and following the devastating death of my mother to cancer, I played my cassette of Lead Me On constantly as I drove out to visit my father who was dying from Alzheimer’s. The album became my prayer, lifeline and hope that God eventually would lead me out of that dark place to a place where the river runs into your keeping… the awaited deliverance comforts the seeking. I wore out my cassette of Lead Me On during that time.
It is important that the musicians and bards who touch our lives so profoundly be recognized during Women’s History Month. Songs can encourage and lift us, but they can also heal us when the message reaches that dark place in the valley where we stand and comfort us with hope that there is something worth hanging on for – a place where this journey leads which can provide eternal comfort and joy.
As a teenager Amy Grant recorded the song “Mountain Top” which goes in part:
I’d love to live on a mountain top, fellowshipping with the Lord.
I’d love to stand on a mountain top, ’cause I love to feel my spirit soar….
But I’ve got to come down from the mountain top to the people in the valley below;
They’ll never know that they can go to the mountain of the Lord.
I think this defines the mission the a very young Amy Grant set out on years ago – a mission she has remained true to all these year. Along the way, she reached people like me. I am eternally grateful for the life, ministry and music of Amy Grant.
wikipedia.org – Amy Grant
wikipedia.org – Lead Me On