I’ve never seen another woman like her. She owns the face of a fairy, the voice of a cherub, and the persona of an angel. She may not be the one who invented the contemporary Christian Music (CCM) style of gospel music, but she did the most to popularize it in the 1970s and 1980s. Do you have a guess of who I’m talking about? It’s no other than Amy Grant, the woman who inspired millions of people through her lifestyle and music.
Amy came along in the world of gospel music in the mid-seventies. During this time, inspirational Christian music was a tiny subgenre, its records sold almost exclusively in Christian bookstores. Then Amy Grant’s debut album was sold in the secular as well as Christian audience. Gospel songs started to be known. In fact, for the first time in history, gospel music constituted eight percent of U.S. record sales after the release of the album, and until now, CCM sales continue to prosper.
Amy Grant, Bart Millard, and MercyMe
Most of us are familiar with the certified 3x Platinum single, “I Can Only Imagine,” from the Christian group, MercyMe. However, did you know that the song was supposed to be recorded by Amy Grant, who happened to be the band lead singer’s musical inspiration? Bart Millard has been open to the public about his admiration for Amy Grant and her songs since he was young.
As Amy prepared to perform “I Can Only Imagine” for the first time in public, a different idea suddenly came to her. She called Bart, who was sitting with the crowd during that time and called him to sing his song. Amy was aware that the song is a life and career changing song, and she did not want to take that moment from the Bart and his band. That evocative moment took place at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
“I was frightened, but ecstatic. Nervous, yet peaceful. Proud, while humbled. For the first time ever in my life, reality was outrunning my imagination,” Bart recalled.
And indeed, that generous gesture changed the course of MercyMe’s career. The story behind the song was even compiled in a book and was turned into a blockbuster movie.
Amy Grant expressed her profound gladness on Millard’s success.
“Nobody sings that song like Bart,” she said. “Everything worked out the way it was meant to be.”
Here’s Amy Grant, Vince Hill, and Bart Millard singing together for “I Can Only Imagine.”