When Amy Grant and Vince Gill sang a duet for her 1994 album House of Love, he was the king of country and she was the queen of Christian pop.
The pair met to record a video for the song, and sparks flew: "I think that a part of me loved him instantly," Grant says. But both singers were married to other people at the time and had children, and their commitment to their families and their fans meant their romance was doomed before it could grow.
The couple had met before, but barely knew each other when Grant's record label invited Gill to join her in singing the album's title track.
"I felt like I knew him instantly," Grant told Primetime recently at the house she now shares with Gill and their combined families in Nashville. "I was so moved by him as a human being that I went up behind him and just hugged him as hard as I could while he was singing. I just said, 'I just needed to hug you all night.'"
The feeling was mutual. When the pair had appeared together at Gill's Christmas concert in Tulsa, Okla., the year before, Gill remembers that someone dared him to put on a top hat and go and dance with Grant during one of her songs — even though he "can't dance a lick" by his own admission. "I started dancing with her, and those pretty big eyes," he said. "I started to sing and the words were just nowhere to be found. And the people were laughing at me."
But their romance could go nowhere. Grant's deep Christian faith made her want to stay married, and the singers were afraid of disappointing their socially conservative fan bases.
Thinking of Each Other
But they kept thinking of each other. Gill, who had been married to his wife Janis since 1980, says he kept Grant in the back of his mind "pretty much" always. He consoled himself with the thought that it might be their destiny to be together one day, perhaps when they were in their 60s or 80s. "You don't know how life's going to unfold," he told himself.
Gill says he wrote his 1995 song "Whenever You Come Around" with Grant in mind: "The face of an angel; pretty eyes that shine," the song goes, "I lie awake at night wishing you were mine."
Grant had married songwriter Gary Chapman, in 1982, when she was 21. Though hints of trouble shadowed the marriage from the start, the couple's deep religious faith, their growing family and Grant's public role as a model Christian wife kept them from breaking apart.
Divorces Two Years Apart
When Gill's wife filed for divorce in 1997, tabloid newspapers printed articles saying Grant and Gill had had an adulterous affair — something both have consistently denied. Grant remained married and says Gill never asked her to do anything else: "He'd never ever, ever invited me out of my world into his. Ever," she says.
Grant's 1997 album Behind the Eyes was filled with dark introspection and songs about unrequited love, including a sad tune called "Cry a River." At the time, she told ABCNEWS that the song was about "a moment when you connect with somebody and all the pistons fire, and then you go, 'Gosh the path of my life does not go down that road'" — but she refused to say who she had in mind. She now admits it was Gill.
Gill was now unattached, but Grant made the agonizing decision to stay married, telling herself that being with Gill was not worth everything that she stood to lose by ending her marriage.