Grant, Amy (1960—)

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Grant, Amy (1960—)

Bringing a flamboyant and youthful sound to what had generally been considered a stiff and formal musical field, Amy Grant changed the face of Christian music. When Grant emerged on the Christian music scene in the 1980s, four categories existed: classical, traditional, gospel, and Jesus rock. Seeing the need for the expression of personal feelings, Grant developed her unique style, which made the old form of Jesus rock acceptable to a greater audience. The Christian message reached a mainstream following of teenagers, college students, and twenty-somethings, through Grant's use of a rock beat. Contemporary Christian music finally had a young, visible face with a vibrant sound.

Born in Augusta, Georgia, on November 25, 1960, Amy Lee Grant moved to Nashville, Tennessee, as an infant. Religion played an important role in her family life, with her strong belief being reflected in the songs that she wrote as a teenager. Reflecting what were sometimes intensely personal feelings, her songs served as an outlet through which Grant expressed her thoughts.

Amy Grant's career was launched when Chris Christian played a tape, which Grant had made for her parents, for the Christian music company, Word. Word and the Myrrh label offered the teenage Grant a recording contract, allowing her to present her first album to the Christian market at age 16. The eponymous work, Amy Grant, was recorded in Christian's home basement studio. Beginning with this album's release, a gradual change in religious music took place, bringing Jesus rock into a new era. Grant gave contemporary Christian music a revitalized image.

Through her high school and college years, Grant continued to record and perform. Her life revolved around family, church, school, and friends. With each new album, her audience grew, as did her appeal. People began to accept her style, unique sound, and the fresh messages found in the lyrics of her songs. Grant also branched out to record works written by others, most notably her future husband, Gary Chapman ("Father's Eyes"), and a young man, Michael W. Smith ("Thy Word"), who served as her co-writer and eventually followed her into the contemporary Christian field. Grant's popularity continued to increase, as did her honors, awards, and media recognition. Winning numerous Grammys and GMA Dove Awards, her albums have received gold and platinum awards from the music industry.

While Grant's earlier recordings include deeply religious works such as "El Shaddai" (1982) and "Thy Word" (1984), her music began to change with the release of the album, Unguarded (1986). This album created controversy especially the song, "Find a Way." The video for this particular number caused Christian traditionalists concern because of the lack of references to God both in lyrics and imagery. That same year, Grant recorded "Next Time I Fall" with Peter Cetera, which raised more questions about the type of music she was choosing to record.

In spite of these concerns in the Christian community, Grant's popularity continued to grow. She countered the worries on the Christian music front with the album Lead Me On in 1988. In 1991, A & M Music, in conjunction with Word, released Grant's first pop collection Heart in Motion, in both the Christian and secular markets. With songs like "Baby, Baby," which Grant wrote for her infant daughter, her music reached the Top 40 echelon and her songs became standards. Her critics, however, found the song too sexual in content for a Christian singer. While the album was not overtly religious, the music still carried messages of hope, love, and family. In 1994, Grant released House of Love, which combined secular and Christian music with powerful messages regarding all varieties of love—including God's love. Her 1997 album, Behind the Eyes, returned Grant to her musical roots as a solo performer using acoustical guitar accompaniment with thought provoking but not necessarily Christian lyrics.

Grant's tours have played to diverse audiences. In the beginning of her career, she performed as a solo act on a bare stage. By 1981, Grant had added a live band and a new performing image. She exhibited dance movements on stage that were more common to rock performers than to Christian singers. Not afraid to let her emotions show, Grant expressed her feelings through both facial expressions and heartfelt pleadings. This exuberance led to a steady increase in young adults attending her concerts, which in turn increased the exposure of a growing contemporary Christian music field. Grant's performance at the Grammy Awards in 1985 gave contemporary Christian music an unprecedented exposure during a primetime live network broadcast, at a time when the musical form needed exposure to the masses. She served as a pioneer in the field, thus opening the door for a wider range of contemporary Christian artists, including the pop stylings of Michael W. Smith, the hard rock sound of Petra, and rap by DC Talk.

—Linda Ann Martindale

Further Reading:

Long, Jim and Michael Long. "Amy Grant: Another New Beginning." Campus Life. July/August, 1994, 17-22.

Millard, Bob. Amy Grant. Garden City, New York, Dolphin/Doubleday, 1986.