Recently my daughter and I were on a car trip doing our usual you-pick-a-song-then-I’ll-pick-a-song routine. We can do this for hours. In this way she has introduced me to Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift, and I have made her a fan of Carrie Newcomer, the Beatles, and Amy Grant.
To my delight she started going back through Amy Grant’s old albums on her own and listening to the same songs I enjoyed when I was her age. But when she played me “Old Man’s Rubble,” I cringed.
Amy Grant recorded this song when she just a teenager, and when I was that age it made a lot of sense to me. The Christian faith was so black and white. So clear:
Are you livin’ in an old man’s rubble?
Are you listenin’ to the Father of Lies?
If you are then you’re headed for trouble
If you listen too long you’ll eventually die.
After my daughter played the song for me, I chose a tune from Grant’s most recent album, a 2010 hodgepodge of old and new songs. The song “Better Than a Hallelujah” makes a statement about raw, honest cries being like music to God’s ears:
We pour out our misery
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a hallelujah.
Grant did not write “Better Than a Hallelujah,” but I imagine that it resonated with her personal evolution. More than three decades elapsed between these two pieces of music, and in that time Grant was knocked around a bit. Her first husband became addicted to cocaine, and although he was eventually able to kick the habit, the marriage was rocky and they eventually divorced in 1999. She took a tremendous amount of criticism for the divorce and her rather quick remarriage to country star Vince Gill.
And in the meantime, Grant has raised four kids, lost a parent, watched another parent suffer from dementia, and a thousand other things. In short, life has happened. And life is complicated, filled with various shades of gray that weren’t present in her debut album.
Next week, Grant will release her first full studio album of new material in a decade. (There have been hymn collections, anniversary editions, etc. since then, but no completely new studio albums since 2003’s Simple Things.)
The new album looks promising, mature, thoughtful. A couple of weeks ago on Twitter Grant sent this link to “Don’t Try So Hard,” a duet with her childhood idol James Taylor. It’s a lovely song about grace. Other guest artists on the album include Sheryl Crow, Carole King, and husband Vince Gill.
I grew up listening to Amy Grant. She’s seen me through adolescence, marriage, parenthood, hard times, good times . . . . Her music would indicate that she’s grown up some too.
Grant’s new song says, “you’re lovely even with your scars.” It's more than that. She is lovelier because of them.