“Age to Age,” which contained her now-famous titles, “El Shaddai” and “In a Little While” (which she penned with Chapman), gave Grant her first GRAMMY (Best Contemporary Gospel Performance), and two Dove Awards (Gospel Artist of the Year and Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year).  The first of her Christmas albums followed, which led to her trademark holiday shows, along with other successful albums like “Straight Ahead.”

But it was Grant’s desire to crossover into the secular pop market that made her into a household name.  On the cover of her 1985 album, “Unguarded,” she sported a leopard jacket and belted out songs that sounded mainstream, but had a strong Christian message.  Although some Christian fans were dismayed, Grant had found her audience.  The song, “Find a Way,” became the first Christian track to hit Billboard’s Top 40 list.  And “Next Time I Fall,” which she sang with Chicago’s former front man Peter Cetera, gave Grant her first Billboard Number 1 hit. 

Grant followed up with the 1988 album “Lead Me On” then, three years later, hit the musical jackpot with “Heart in Motion,” which has since sold more than five million copies.  The song “Baby, Baby,” written for one of Grant’s children (her daughter, Millie), established her as a major mainstream pop artist.  And, while some fans were dismayed at the secular bent, the album stayed atop Billboard’s contemporary Christian music chart for 32 weeks.

In 1994, “House of Love” offered more of the same – as well as a glimpse into Grant’s future, when she sang a duet with country crooner Vince Gill.  Five years later, amidst rumors of an affair, Grant divorced Chapman and married Gill, who was already divorced from his first wife, Janice Gill, a member of the country band, Sweethearts of the Rodeo. 

The scandal hit all the tabloids, and Christian stores and radio stations shunned Grant.  Most ironic, some say, were ads for Grant’s albums which continued to appear in magazines like “Marriage Partnership” and “Today’s Christian Woman” during that time.  A televised 2002 interview with ABC did nothing to stem the tide.  Yet throughout, Grant continued to write and sing – and be marketed in the contemporary Christian music industry. 

As she has so often in the past, Grant declined to speak about that period in her life, and even sidestepped a question about whether the negative press had strengthened her.

“There are so many things in life that have built my faith, but it’s not the stuff that you mentioned,” she said.  “It’s everything.  It’s all those things and everything.  It’s every day that I wake up feeling kind of useless and something happens before the day is up that was necessary and meaningful for me and somebody else.”

Clearly, Grant has moved on.  A year after her marriage to Gill, they had a child together.  She has also produced several new albums, including two filled with gospel hymns and her 18th CD, 2003’s “Simple Things.”  She took on the project of hosting “Three Wishes,” she said, because she longed to do something more to help people.

“I was in the process of feeling a little wistful, because there was a time in my life when my income curve was greater and I could do more things for people, and do them secretly,” she explained.  “Part of me was wishing I could have that back.”

Yet, “Three Wishes” is hardly secret giving.

“My feeling about this was this very unique set-up is that it’s a teaching tool,” Grant said, by way of reply.  “Yes, we are using network and sponsorship dollars, but we live in an age when people are not connecting – not meeting people’s needs on a basic level. … My hope is that people will be inspired to get involved and do things for each other, and to reinvest.”

She said that she is very excited about the project, which gives her enormous satisfaction on many levels.

“I have never felt so equipped for a job in my life,” she said.  “Every wish, every time I’ve taken a guitar into a hospital, every Habitat for Humanity build, every green room – people have decided to share their life story and share very intimate details.  A girl told me last night in Saratoga that she had been raped for 10 years.  She asked me to sing the song, “Ask Me.”  It’s been very surreal how, from the age of 17, when my first album came out to now – and I’m 44 – people have opened up to me.   They feel something, and I don’t even know what it is.”

Clearly, “Three Wishes” is the beginning of something new – for Grant as well as NBC.

“In some spiritual way, I believe that this thing was orchestrated the way it was supposed to,” she said.  “Most of the time, I feel like I’m out there on thin ice, asking God to give me every note, but not this.”


"Three Wishes" premieres Friday, September 23 at 9 p.m. E.T./8 p.m. C.T. on NBC.