Tuesday, February 25, 2014

#94 MY FATHER'S EYES by Amy Grant (1979)

MY FATHER'S EYES by Amy Grant
Myrrh Records (MSB-6625)
Amy Grant.

That name means different things to different people. For many, she’s the fresh-faced teenager that introduced them to Christian music in the 70s. To others, she’s the queen of ‘80s CCM, prancing back and forth, barefoot in that leopard print jacket on the Grammy Awards telecast, giving new legitimacy to Christian rock. To some, she’s been a lightning rod for controversy, from comments about nude sunbathing in Rolling Stone magazine to an all-too-quick marriage following her divorce from Gary Chapman. Still others see her as a woman who was born to sing Christmas music (she has released three – count ‘em – three amazing holiday albums). At the end of the day, objective observers agree that she has built a long, successful career on music that matters.

Ever since she burst on the scene as a bashful teenager, bringing contemporary Christian music to the forefront of American culture, the Nashville native gained a reputation for creating potent songs that examined life’s complexities with an open heart and keen eye. She went on to become a crossover sensation, her musical gifts transcending genre boundaries to make her a household name.

The numbers are simply staggering:

Over 30 million albums sold worldwide

1 Quintuple Platinum album

1 Triple Platinum

1 Double Platinum album

4 Platinum albums

6 Gold albums

6 Grammy Awards

26 Dove Awards

6 #1 radio singles

She was inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 2003; and in 2006 she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Born November 25, 1960, in Augusta, GA, where her father, Dr. Burton Paine Grant, was doing his residency, Amy Lee Grant was a descendent of one of the most prominent and prosperous families of Nashville, TN. Her great-grandfather, Andrew Mizell Burton, was a wealthy insurance executive and philanthropist. She was the fourth and final daughter born to her father and her mother, Gloria Grant, following her sisters Mimi, Kathy, and Carol. In addition to being well established socially and financially, the Grant family was also deeply religious. Although she was baptized in the Church of Christ, she soon followed her sister Mimi in attending a breakaway variant of the faith, the Belmont Church of Christ, which took a less formal approach, more in keeping with the Charismatic Movement.

While in the seventh grade at the private Ensworth Grammar School, Amy learned to play the guitar. Later, at the private girls’ prep school Harpeth Hall, Grant began performing with her guitar at devotional meetings at the school, playing songs by such favorites as James Taylor, Carole King, and John Denver. None of them, however, sang Christian songs, so Grant augmented her program with her own faith-based compositions. While working as an intern at a recording studio, she made a tape of her songs for her parents that was heard by producer Brown Bannister, who in turn played it for singer Chris Christian, recently retained by gospel label Word Records as a talent scout. He played it over the phone for label executives, and she was offered a recording contract five weeks before her 16th birthday.

She recorded her first album, simply titled Amy Grant in 1977. It initially sold 250,000 copies, eventually selling over a million copies.

In the fall of 1978 she performed her first ticketed concert—in Fort Worth, Texas—after beginning her first year at Furman University. Grant attended Furman in 1979 and 1980. There she performed one of her earliest paid, professional concerts, opening for Gene Cotton at McAlister Auditorium on the Furman campus. I mention this only because I live 5 miles from the Furman campus and actually saw my first Amy Grant concert in that same McAlister Auditorium several years later (the Age to Age Tour as I recall). She had Kathy Troccoli and some piano player opening for her that night – some guy named Michael W. Smith. I remember the show well because Smith had laryngitis and was unable to sing that night, which was a big disappointment. But I digress.

My Father’s Eyes, Amy Grant’s second album, was released in April of 1979 and demonstrated that the 18-year old singer/college student had grown up a lot in just 2 years. Grant, who wrote or co-wrote eight of the 13 songs, came across as a girl who had seen much more of the world.

The ballad My Father’s Eyes had been written by a young Texan by the name of Gary Chapman, an aspiring Christian songwriter, and it carried a subtle Christian message rather than the sort of overt statement typical of most Gospel music at that time. The message was positive, and it alluded to elements of Christian belief, but it also could be interpreted as a song from a girl to her earthly father. It turned out to be a big radio hit. Another successful radio single was Faith Walking People, with its Chicago-style horn parts. Always the Winner pulled the curtain back to reveal a vulnerable side of Amy, a quality that her legion of admirers would fully embrace in coming years.

Always the winner, baby
You're always the center, baby
But don't ever get lonely at night
When the crowds have gone away?


There was a time when you cared for their hearts
And the need to show them love was tearing you apart
But you're changing, you know
Become the star of the show
Now you've got nothing to give
Where is the truth you once lived?
You're just lonely / Don't you feel lonely?
Turn out the spotlight, I'm tired.
Not my will, but Thine Lord, I'm crying
Oh won't you turn my gaze back, Lord, to you?
You're the only One who knows me
Please mold me back to You


 


Always the Winner was also notable for another reason: the instrumentation included synthesized drums (known as “Syndrums” back in the day). Yeah, baby!

The song Bridegroom was written by Marty McCall who would later form the band Fireworks. For some reason, the song featured “fife & drum” accompaniment.






You Were There (written by Stephanie Boosahda) is given a disco treatment, while Amy’s sisters join her for an a cappella rendition of the classic hymn O Sacred Head. [The latter may have been a nod to the church music of her youth. Amy’s family belonged to the Church of Christ denomination, which banned the playing of musical instruments at its services; worshipers sang the hymns a cappella.]

Amy, who was attending college during the week and playing concerts on the weekends, also confessed to spiritual and physical exhaustion in All That I Need Is You:

Lord, you know it's been a busy day / And I'm just weary to my bones
I hope you'll understand if I don't pray / But I need my rest to carry on



Why do I kid myself? You see my heart / The me I try so to ignore
And Lord, You see how very weak I am / I just can't hide it anymore
 
Fairytale offers an interesting take on Good vs. Evil/Jesus vs. Satan. The message is reminiscent of Prince Song by the 2ndChapter of Acts. It’s one of my favorite Amy songs from any of her albums.

I was just like Peter Pan in Never-Never Land
Afraid of what the future might be
Afraid to face the things I couldn't understand
Afraid of things that I couldn't see



Fairytale / It seems just like fairytale
But there's something in my heart that says this time the story's real
Fairytale / Extraordinary tale
Of a King who offers love so far beyond what I can fee.


There's a world out there that human eyes can never see
But it's just within the reach of the heart
Two princes wages the battle for eternity
But the Victor has been known from the start


Now I can see / The truth can seem so much like a fantasy
But make-believe was never as real to me / I know this time the story's true


Just like Sleeping Beauty in a Neverland / I was dying under a spell
But then a Prince who comes from a Foreverland / Awakened me from my fairytale
 
From there, the rest of the album gets a little weird. Giggle is about standing up for the Lord (even in the face of being taught evolution in school), which is great…but the musical treatment makes it sound like a children’s song from some PBS kids’ show. Then Brown Bannister takes a prominent vocal role on a duet with Amy called There Will Never Be Another. It comes across like a straight love song; but a closer listen reveals that it’s a song to God, not an earthly lover. The album ends with something that just seems like filler material – an a cappella sing-along called Keep It On Going.

On My Father’s Eyes, Amy Grant and her producer Brown Bannister continued a trend begun by Chris Christian (on his own self-titled debut in 1977 and B.J. Thomas’ Home Where I Belong: to record songs that could be interpreted as either Christian or secular. [This was later referred to as the “God as my girlfriend” syndrome.] Grant and Bannister were forging a new style of Christian pop music here, and succeeded wildly.

My Father’s Eyes would eventually be certified a gold record. It also earned Amy her first Grammy nomination.




In May 1979, while at the My Father’s Eyes album release party, Amy Grant met Gary Chapman, writer of the title track (and future husband). Grant & Chapman toured together the summer of 1979. She subsequently left Furman Universityand returned to Nashville to be closer to the record industry…and to Chapman. Gary and Amy were married on June 19, 1982. Their marriage produced three children.

Sadly, the marriage did not last. Gary Chapman has said that he believes a relationship between Amy and country artist Vince Gill was the primary cause of the divorce. About the breakup, Chapman had this to say toToday’s Christian Music in 2001: “It was not God’s will that we divorced. It wasn’t. That was not His plan. Can He take what has happened and through His miracle of grace do great things for me and for her and for everybody else involved? Yes. And He is. But that doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t. It will never make it right. ‘Irreconcilable differences’ is such a lame and hollow phrase. From my vantage point, we had one irreconcilable difference. I wanted her to stay, and she wanted to leave. Everything else, God could have reconciled."

Divorce has become so common among CCM artists – sometimes multiple divorces. Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Steve Archer, Kenny Marks, John Michael Talbot, Bob Bennett, Paul Clark, Pam Mark Hall, Gene Eugene, Derri Daugherty, Mike Roe, Wayne Watson, Greg X. Volz, and on and on we could go. In the interest of full disclosure, I went through one myself in the early 90s. Thank God for Bob Bennett’s Songs From Bright Avenue. That record pretty much kept me sane during a heartbreaking chapter in my life. But the Chapman-Grant split is the most infamous of them all. The timing of it all was troubling, and the differing accounts given in magazine interviews did little to clear things up. Not that any of us are owed an explanation. On the other hand, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” (Luke 12:48)



 


A few years after My Father’s Eyes, Amy Grant released a record called Age to Age and never looked back. In the‘80s she would become the undisputed Queen of Christian Pop. She charted new territory. And she sold a heck of a lot of records. She ended up being an ambassador for Christ to more non-Christians than any other Christian artist has ever had the chance to sing to. And that’s a good thing.


Fun Fact: Marty McCall (Fireworks), Steve Chapman(Dogwood) and Lenny LeBlanc all sang background vocals on this album.


8 comments:

  1. In deference to Paul Clark...he kept it quiet for years and was very hurt and distraught by it...he's like me we didn't ask for it we just accepted it because we'd still be fighting...

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  2. If you're talking about divorce...same here. Sometimes there's nothing you can do when the other party wants to go for whatever reason. And I believe there are some limited Scriptural grounds for divorce. But it's always a tragedy for any kids involved.

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  3. There is only 1 Amy Grant and her voice just turns records into gold and platinum.

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  4. I haven't listened to this album in a lot of years. In fact, I no longer had it for a while. But recently came across it at a thrift store. Reading this makes me want to pull this and her first album out again and give them another listen.

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  5. And just for the fun of it...does anybody else think the instrumental intro for "My Father's Eyes" and Neil Diamond's "I Am I Said" are WAY too similar?

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