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.
Privately, she admits, she was having a crisis of faith. "Does God really heal? Can he really heal me?," she says she asked herself, adding, "It's not that I stopped believing in God, but everything felt like a charade."
But by 1998, with her marriage, her faith and her family on the line, Grant made the decision to separate from her husband. She and her children moved out of the family farm into a nearby house in Nashville. She said her worst crisis of faith came when she realized that she was not going to be able to meet "the goal that I had been programmed for from the time I was a little girl": staying married.
Grant's divorce from Chapman in 1999 alienated some of her Christian fans. A few radio stations stopped playing Grant's songs, and some Christian record stores pulled her albums from the shelves. "Artists who do Christian music and spread the gospel are kind of held to a different and a higher standard than your average pop-rock star," said Deborah Evans, who writes about Christian music for Billboard magazine.
Bringing Two Families Together
With both their marriages at an end, Grant and Gill were finally free to get married. On March 10, 2000 — 10 years after they first met — they married on a rainy hillside outside Nashville, with Grant barefoot and bagpipes wailing.
The couple set about "blending" their families. Gill's 17-year-old daughter Jenny joined Grant's three children — Matt, 12, Millie, 10, and Sarah, 7 — and the new family moved into a new home in Nashville.
Gill said he is careful with his role in Grant's kids' lives: "They have a good father, and he loves them and he takes care of them. It's not my job to try to be Dad."
With the children's encouragement, Grant and Gill considered having another child. "I've always felt in my gut that this would be a really neat bonding experience for everybody in this family that was, you know, blended.... Everybody would have one thing they had in common," said Gill.
Two days after their first wedding anniversary, Grant gave birth to a daughter, Corrina Grant Gill. "It's really been an amazing gift to us all, I think," she said. "To have something in common that we could all love equally and not have any baggage of past or anything."
Grant and Gill say they believe in fate — though they acknowledge there can be detours. "I got lost on this road and I just took what I thought was an arbitrary turn and I found the place that I belonged," said Grant. "I mean, that's the really beautiful part of life."