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Amy Grant: Giving as good as she gets

Amy Grant She is one of Music City's most celebrated artists, a woman who, as a teenager 26 years ago, took the Christian music scene by storm. Amy Grant was the first contemporary Christian artist to have a gold record, and now has sold nearly 22 million records worldwide. She's won five Grammy awards, 17 Dove awards -- including Artist of the Year four times -- and has performed everywhere from the White House to The Grand Ole Opry. In the process, she cemented the mainstream credibility of the Christian music industry it so desperately craved.

Yet it was her private life that made secular headlines. In the late '90s she had a much-publicized friendship and rumored romance with country music star Vince Gill. Her marriage to singer-songwriter Gary Chapman, the father of their three children, was disintegrating. Her subsequent divorce from Chapman and marriage to the recently divorced Gill sealed her doom with her Christian fans and she was ostracized by the Christian press. Christian radio stations stopped playing her music and bookstores stopped selling her albums.

After laying low during those turbulent years, Grant is making a comeback of sorts with the release of her 18th album, "Simple Things." She says she's the happiest she's ever been. Her life is full with Gill, her three children, his one, and a daughter that was born a year after the two singers were married in 2000.

Grant is active in a number of charities, including Scholarship America, for which she serves as ambassador and spokeswoman, and Habitat for Humanity.

Bankrate: How do you choose which causes you'll support and how active you'll be?

Amy Grant: There's always a personal connection. To me, a charity has got to make sense. There's so much need in the world. I was contacted by Scholarship America, and I was blown away by the education numbers, people who don't get a good education because the costs are so astronomical. I have paid for the educations of several kids over the years, both high school and college, because it is so important.

Bankrate: Do you think you've grasped the power that your name brings to a charity or an organization? That some people are willing to give more money just because you're associated with it?

Amy Grant: I don't really ever think of it in those terms. But I do know that if it makes a difference, it's so worth it for me.

Bankrate: Having been a part of the Christian music industry for so long, what was your impression of it in the beginning and what is it today?

Amy Grant: When I first started, there was this kind of hippie Jesus movement that made its way from California to Boston, where my sisters were in school. And they brought it home to me and my family. And it made it to my church, and I got involved in it. Sort of singing in the window, that kind of thing. Today, it's a thriving industry, and there are all kinds of styles represented. I think it's great.

Next: Was it hard getting back to work?
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