Fall From the Loft
I used to have an album that I wore out called, Songs From the Loft. It was one of my favorite albums ever. It was a compilation of praise and worship songs that were recorded with various Christian artists singing alongside a group of youth, recorded in a barn on the estate of Amy Grant and Gary Chapman. Gary produced the album.
Gary Chapman is a Dove winning songwriter and a Christian music artist in his own right, but most people in the secular world would not be familiar with him. He wrote or co-wrote a lot of Amy’s recorded songs, the most famous of which is probably, “Father’s Eyes.” They married in 1982.
Gary’s career took a back seat to Amy’s. A lot of people in the secular world probably didn’t know who he was until he and Amy’s divorce in 1999. The ensuing scandal involving suspected adultery on the part of Amy with Vince Gill was troubling and disillusioning to many in the Christian world.
I am a fan of Amy Grant. I’ve seen her in concert more than once. I’ve bought her albums. I wasn’t the kind of fan who had every album, but I had several. I just thought she had such a perfect wholesome apple-cheeked pop sound. The appeal was rather irresistible for me. It was so wide-eyed and optimistic, and it matched my sensibilities as a younger woman.
As she grew as an artist, she moved from a bubble gum pop sound to a more mature style in the vein of some of the sixties folk rock artists like Joan Baez or Joni Mitchell. She even recorded a cover of Joni Mitchell’s, “Big Yellow Taxi,” on House of Love, the 1994 album that also introduced Grant to Vince Gill when they recorded the album’s title song.
Behind the Eyes is an album that was written and recorded while Grant was going through some intensive marital counseling with Chapman, immediately preceding their separation, which was announced in December of 1998. She called it her “razor blades and Prozac” album. It’s my favorite of her albums, and I can listen to every track on the album and never get tired of it.
For some reason, the dissolution of Amy Grant and Gary Chapman’s marriage was very disappointing to me, as if I knew either of the two of them personally. I didn’t. But I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Most people weighed in on the situation, heavily biased for one side or the other. My friend, Amanda, who never missed Gary Chapman’s talk show on The Nashville Network, was very vocal about her take on the matter. That Grant woman had broken that poor man’s heart. And, no doubt about it, I’m sure that was true.
If you haven’t heard about it already, I’ll tell you what went down. In 1994, Amy Grant and Vince Gill meet in a recording studio, where they are recording the duet, “House of Love.” She is so moved at the sight of him that she immediately hugs him and tells him that she could hug him forever. They become fast friends, and they begin playing golf together and being seen all around town in Nashville. Nashville is a big city with a small town feel, and tongues start wagging.
This is the same year that Chapman gains some well earned critical acclaim for his new Gospel album, “The Light Inside,” and he and Amy come clean about some serious marital troubles they’ve had, in large part due to Gary’s cocaine addiction. Gary decides to go public after he’s had eight years of sobriety, in the hope of helping others in the same circumstances.
Vince Gill’s wife, Janis Oliver, a Country recording artist with the group Sweethearts of the Rodeo, files for divorce in 1997, after she finds handwritten letters from Grant to Gill, in Gill’s golf bag. The notes are signed, “I love you, Amy.” Janis asks Vince to stop seeing Amy, but he refuses to do so. So, Janis takes him to court and names Amy as a respondent in the divorce.
Both Grant and Gill offer to sign sworn affidavits, verifying that there was no physical relationship between the two of them. From the time of Gill’s separation from Janis until Grant’s separation from Gary, the two of them say that they have no contact with each other.
With the announcement of Grant and Chapman’s separation and subsequent divorce, the internet is full of gossip on all kinds of forums from people who claim to be in the know, either because they live in Nashville or are a friend of a friend of Amy’s or Gary’s or both. Her supporters stress that she lived through hell and that people in Nashville had known that their marriage wasn’t a happy one, for years. She unknowingly married a drug addict, and when he decided to get clean in 1986, it was only because he was going to lose his wife if he didn’t. Unsubstantiated claims of continuing addiction problems with alcohol and marijuana, possible infidelity on his part, and allegations of his temper and ego issues and profound jealousy over her greater success are what her side raises.
On his side, people state that Gary never wanted the divorce. He wanted to stay in the marriage. And even if Amy is telling the truth, and she and Vince have never had sex, what constitutes an extramarital affair? Do two people have to be physically intimate with each other in order for there to be adultery? It seems like a technicality. If your relationship with someone else sublimates the one you have with your spouse, isn’t that also being unfaithful?
After the divorce, Grant marries Gill less than a year later. She stays largely silent about the media frenzy, commenting on her budding relationship with Gill but remaining quiet about her marriage to Chapman. Chapman gives interviews with magazines where he says that the evidence will bear out, and he admits to a bitterness and a hunger for justice. He says that Amy told him as early as 1995 that she was in love with another man. Despite his admitted issues with Grant’s whirlwind courtship and remarriage, Chapman himself remarries four months later.
It’s amazing that people still have such strong opinions on a matter that is essentially none of their business, but they do. People, including Gary Chapman himself, still comment on the divorce on internet forums, over a decade after it happened. When Gary got a DUI and an arrest for marijuana possession in 2006 and then a divorce from his second wife in 2007, people on Team Amy were quick to point to it as if it were a sign from God that Amy’s divorce was sanctioned by God.
Amy Grant and Gary Chapman are two people who happen to be Christians, who were participants in a failed marriage. None of us knows what went on behind closed doors. Amy and Gary are the only ones who know for sure what happened, and no doubt they each have their own perceptions that are equally truthful but wholly different.
I’m sure that Gary hurt Amy deeply, and Amy did the same to Gary. Infidelity is painful, and addiction is a kind of infidelity. An addict is in love with his drug of choice. Chapman was in love with cocaine the same way Amy was in love with Gill, and I’m sure that it was just as painful for Amy to play second fiddle to a line of cocaine or a bottle as it was for Gary to hear that his wife was in love with another man.
Christians are quick to judge in situations like this. We like to point fingers and assign fault and blame. We like to use these sins as excuses to question a believer’s sincerity or authenticity. She’s not a real Christian or she wouldn’t behave that way. He’s not a believer; a real believer wouldn’t need alcohol to fill a hole in his heart that should already be filled with the Spirit. What a crock!
Amy Grant and Gary Chapman are real, live, breathing human beings who make mistakes, not idols for us to place our unrealistic expectations on. It is not for us to decide their faith in God. That’s between each of them and God. Hopefully, those of us who are truly Christians will keep in mind that the point of Christianity is that Jesus died on a cross to wash all our sins clean, not so that we could have an excuse to sit in eternal judgment of one another.
Entry filed under: Adultery, Alcoholism/Substance Abuse, Chrisitanity, Entertainment, Ethics, Faith, Love, Marriage, Music, Relationships, Spirituality. Tags: Amy Grant, Christianity, Gary Chapman, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Light Inside, Marriage, Vince Gill.