"If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants."(Sir Isaac Newton, English Physicist c. 1676)
The first time I heard Amy Grant, I was 13 years old. The summer of 1978 was complicated for me, so I failed to recognize the message or the messenger. It’s hard to explain, but I did remember her name and I remembered her music, yet I was not compelled to join in the singing. As one year turned into another, I would occasionally note people in church discussing her, or her music for sale at the Christian Bookstore I frequented, looking for guidance and wisdom. I will admit that her public image and songs were a little too "goody two-shoes" for me at first, and she didn’t compare as an icon to Sigourney Weaver, Wonder Woman or other strong females I had been exposed to at the time.
As more time passed, I duly noted her presence on Christian Radio and I even started to find her music less "evangelical", and easier to swallow. It was hard not to hum along or tap my foot to songs like Giggle or Grape, Grape Joy when they were played in Sunday school rooms. When the 1980s first appeared, her first live concert albums introduced me to I’m Gonna Fly. It touched my greater sensibilities. It expressed emotions I myself had held in check. Bit by bit, song by song, I opened myself to the ideas contained in her music. It was almost as if each word and each melody revealed where hope could be found. I had failed to embrace her early on, but it was only a matter of time before she evolved into the most influential person of my life thus far.The release of Age to Age (1982) propelled Amy from a meek young performer to the number one Christian artist in the world. The album was number one on the "Billboard chart of the best-selling Christian music albums of the week" for more than 24 weeks. It was the first million seller for a Christian album. I bought the cassette because of the hype it received, and in one listen knew I would be forever connected to this woman of God. The lyrics consumed me, reaching to places were God had hidden since I was a little boy. Her music energized me, granting me a previously unfamiliar platform by which to explore my blossoming curiosity regarding all things metaphysical, paranormal and spiritual. Her melodies, and especially the words she chose to use, gave me permission to feel and to learn and to hope.
My Mother absolutely loved the cut Arms of Love, and between us, the Age to Age album was played over and over and over again for months. Slowly, often without my knowledge, Amy's music and the message behind it slipped into my consciousness and took root in the very fabric of my being. One by one, I absorbed songs like they were sermons, weaving God’s love and the lessons of life into a needlepoint. Like an addiction, when I needed more, all I had to do was seek out the display case at my favourite Christian shop. Her face even started to pop up at more secular music stores. From the moment this building epiphany began, on to this day, and underneath all my living, I could always hear her singing. She is imbedded, a part of me.
"Every time you get an inspiration you have to go with it.That’s what faith is - the process of being led."
(Amy Grant, 2012)
I have always felt as if Amy's songs and her message could have been written and performed just for me. When I turn on her music, I feel like a captive audience, yet I am held by choice, not forcibly detained. It’s almost like she speaks into my soul and expresses, for me, that which my heart cannot by itself. There has always been a serendipity I felt with her life and especially her music. There is something about not only each song that relates to me, but the essence of what Amy has to say that has caught my attention and still pulls me more into her substance. I feel a slight parallel between what she experiences and the life that I am living. It seems like kismet. With each album she releases, I am still captivated. I still know every one of her 300 plus songs by heart. What she sings about resonates with my mind and my spirit. There is a cause and effect to the relationship, something I didn’t once understand but have felt more and more with each new album and almost every new song. I understand her better than I do most people in my life. There is meaning in her message and revelation in her locutions.I have followed Amy, chased her perhaps, as she painted her life and mine in chords and melody. Some people have their Madonna or Lady Gaga, but my Diva, for lack of a better word, will always be Amy. After 30 years and more than 30 albums, Amy Grant remains the one person who has affected me the most. With all due respect to God, Jesus, my parents and partners, no one else holds a candle to what Amy has brought to my table. Some people follow scripture and others follow impulse, but I follow her music and what lies within it.
I believe that God uses all of us for His purpose and I know that I would have been completely lost without the guide I found in this woman and her music. She has never tried to map things out for her fans, she is no guru, merely expressing her life and all that her experience has to offer. There is nothing more significant in my life and nothing has equilibrated me more than her message. I cannot express the depth and wholeness I have found in her song. Each lyric has strengthened me in times of strife and her compassion has always led me to a better place. The library of music which represents her is far too vast to explain without audio and video, but it reaches across the fringes to strangers and welcomes you as a child of God. There is no preaching or fervour in her delivery, just simple things which we can recognize in that which we know. All we need to do is listen and perhaps peer behind her eyes.
"Death is the last great lesson your parents will teach you." (Amy Grant, 2012)
When I think on the events of my life, I can match each one with song after song from Amy. Outside of my family, I have known her longer than anyone. After I lost my first partner, Cry a River from Behind the Eyes (1997) built a bridge for me between grief and mercy. When my Mother passed away on April 29th 2010, Hard Times and Better than a Hallelujah, both from Somewhere Down the Road (2010), related that which I had forgotten. She led me to that place called hope and granted me permission to question, doubt and even get angry with God. Of course, no one is supposed to name names. On the first anniversary of my Mother's death, April 29th 2011, Amy's mother Gloria Grant passed away at the age of 80. It would seem that date itself has become a turning point for both our lives. Since her mother's death, Amy has started a new journey while dealing with the decline in health of her father, Burton Grant.Last year, Amy began a series of appearances and interviews promoting awareness of those with a loss of overall brain function. She appeared on Katie, an afternoon talk show hosted by Katie Couric. Her interview brought the audience, and me, to tears. My Father has a milder form of dementia, but coupled with other medical conditions, there is great fear for his near future. On October 19th 2012, Amy performed her newest song How Mercy Looks from Here. Everything I am going through as a spiritual person found reflection in the lyrics. Once again, it was as if she was talking just to me. I suppose that’s the thing about Amy Grant that makes her so valuable to me, in a real sense she was talking to me. Her "unbearable mistakes" and “facing your greatest fear” reverberate from the exact same emotional place. A former doctor, she describes her father's illness in the song as "a brilliant mind that fades away." I can relate. I get it, completely. We always seem to be on the same page.
"I would have given up
Drowning in my tears
If it wasn't for Your Voice
All these years.
When you face your greatest fear
Losing all that you hold near
Open up your eyes my dear, my dear."
(How Mercy Looks from Here, Amy Grant 2012)
I have never been a man who believes in the paranormal or events beyond the human experience, but when I stop to think of how much the music of Amy Grant has given to me, how she has reached beyond the mortal and shown me the Immortal, I cannot help but wonder if something greater than ourselves is at play. She is not a prophet of doom, or the end of days, rather she defines what a person of God should be and what God should be as well. Amy Grant is not perfect. She has struggled and made mistakes, just like us all. It is her humanity itself which allows her to transcend beyond the studio or stage and command we listen to the voice of something Holy which comes from her guitar and her song. What a difference she has made in my life.There are those who would try to convince me that she is not all that she appears to be. There has never been a lack of condemnation for her choices made and the manner she has used to carry her message. When the video for her number one hit Baby Baby caught the attention of fundamentalist Christians in the early 1990s, they called her ungodly for dancing and demonstrating affection towards her pretend "partner". Soon after, they accused her of witchcraft and demonic practices for her choice of outfit in the video That's What Love is For. When she divorced her husband Gary Chapman, and relatively soon after married country singer Vince Gill, those same fundamentalist Christians tossed her into the fiery pit. It was as if they assaulted her for having the audacity to be herself. For me, the lyrics to even just one of her songs has done more for me spiritually than a lifetime of reading the Bible or 25 years of churchgoing ever did. No matter what may come, she is my touchstone.
There are many things we cannot explain about this life. Whether we are Christian or Buddhist, or even an Atheist, there are many unanswered questions. We spend so much time pondering them to no avail. Amy isn't about having the answers. It is her music that allows us the freedom to discover our answers for ourselves. She challenges us to look within. She urges us to consider and to surrender to something greater than ourselves. She is the one tool I have found most necessary in surviving god. Her library of song has been a significant part of the way I got through it all. Each one has been part of a guiding force. One can just tell she was sent from the place where hope is found.
"Music is the key, I think." (Amy Grant, 2012)
On May 14th 2013, Amy’s latest masterpiece, How Mercy Looks from Here (the album), was released. My pre-order came the next day on my 48th birthday. It was like a gift sent just from her. As with every other project she has ever published, I was instantly swept away in a spirit. Each song, once again, spoke to me. Even the added songs, offered only through iTunes (Faith, Free) and at Target stores (Threaten Me with Heaven), seemed to reach deep inside of me and relate those things that I most needed to hear. She reminded me that I am never alone, even though I often feel as if I am. She has convinced me that I am loved, that I am “golden,” and she has shown me how to “greet the day.” Ironically, the song I love the most is the song most Christian in its approach. I cannot seem to get enough of Faith. This biblical vehicle presents Jesus discussing “food that spoils” to the masses on the Mount. Anything noting our obligation to believe in Him, might well have turned me off had another artist released the very same song. Somehow Jesus stating that He knows “a man who toils, and toils,” only reaffirmed to me that I still believe, and for all the right reasons. No matter, have faith and believe, and remember, it is God that gives us “bread from heaven.” I took that new edition and I added it to all the other gifts I have received from her.I do not believe in coincidences. I have always believed there was a reason I discovered Amy’s music and the revelation of God it contains. I once believed I would one day know her personally. I no longer believe that. I do not need to. I have seen Amy in concert many times and am lucky enough to possess her entire music library, but I am not special; many others can relate to exactly what I am expressing. Some people bring to life joy and others pain. Some people walk completely alone, never knowing any form of love, including the love of God. Call it supernatural, but Amy Grant has a power at her disposal. She has tapped in to both the best and worst of life, all the while reaching across boundaries and distance to share a profound message of forgiveness and humanity and that’s how mercy looks from here.
Chasing Amy(Original Post August 16th 2010)
Katie(Aired October 19th 2012)