Last week we took a look back at the history of Amy Grant. This week's logical choice then would be an artist that often collaborated with her... Michael W. Smith. He is an American musician who has charted in both contemporary Christian and mainstream charts and to date has sold more than 18 million albums.
In 1978, Smith moved to Nashville, taking a job as a landscaper to support himself. He played with several local bands in the Nashville club scene. He also developed a problem with substance abuse.
In November 1979, Smith suffered a breakdown that led to his recommitment to Christianity. The next day he auditioned for a new contemporary Christian music (CCM) group, Higher Ground, as a keyboardist and got the job. His lead vocals were heard on much of CCM radio with the single, "I Am". It was on his first tour with Higher Ground, playing mostly in churches, that Smith was finally able to put the drugs and alcohol behind him.
In 1981, while he was playing keyboards for Higher Ground, Smith was signed as a writer to Meadowgreen Music, where he wrote numerous gospel hits penned for artists such as Sandi Patty, Kathy Troccoli, Bill Gaither and Amy Grant, to the effect that some of these popular worship songs can now be found in church hymnals. The following year, Smith began touring as a keyboardist for Grant on her Age to Age tour.
He would eventually become Grant's opening act and recorded his first Grammy-nominated solo album The Michael W. Smith Project (which he also produced himself) in 1983. This album contained the first recording of his hit "Friends"...
By the time Smith's second album Michael W. Smith 2 was released in 1984, he was headlining his own tours. In 1986, Smith released The Big Picture.
After the release of his 1988 effort, i 2 (EYE), Smith once again collaborated with Grant for her "Lead Me On" world tour. The following year, Smith recorded his first Christmas album, simply titled Christmas (1989).
In 1990, Smith released Go West Young Man, his first mainstream effort, which included the mainstream crossover hit single "Place in This World". The song peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1991 he won the Favorite New Adult Contemporary Artist at the American Music Awards. In 1992, he released Change Your World, which included the No. 1 adult contemporary hit "I Will Be Here for You". In 1993 Smith released his first box set, The Wonder Years and his first greatest hits album, The First Decade (1983–1993). The latter also includes two new songs, "Do You Dream of Me?" and "Kentucky Rose". In 1995, Smith released his eighth album I'll Lead You Home, which combines the pop style of his secular albums with a touch of religious feel. Live the Life (1998) and This Is Your Time (1999) follow the same style. In 1998, Smith also released his second Christmas album, Christmastime.
Nearly all of Smith's albums include at least one instrumental track, and in 2000, Smith recorded his first all instrumental album, Freedom. The following year, Smith released his first all-worship music album, Worship, on September 11. This album was followed by a sequel, Worship Again in 2002. Both albums were recorded live in concert.
Smith won the Male Vocalist of the Year award at the GMA Music Awards in 2003. The same year he also released his second greatest hits album, The Second Decade (1993–2003).
Smith's album, Healing Rain, was released in 2004 and debuted at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 200 Chart. The title track rose to No. 1 on the Radio & Records Charts and a music video for the song was released. The album combines the pop style of his previous recordings with the religious feel of his two live worship albums. It was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album. In 2006 he released Stand, which is similar to Healing Rain (2004) in style and genre but with more Christian-themed songs.
In October 2007, he released his third Christmas album, It's a Wonderful Christmas. On June 20, 2008, Smith recorded his third live Worship album at the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, titled A New Hallelujah. It was released in October 2008. That same month he began a tour with Steven Curtis Chapman.
In 2009 Smith was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. In September 2010, he released Wonder. Smith's second instrumental album, Glory, was released on November 22, 2011. The following year he released his third compilation album, Decades of Worship (2012).
In 2014, Smith released three albums, Hymns, Sovereign, and The Spirit of Christmas. Smith, along with Amy Grant, was honored as the "cornerstone of Christian music" by ASCAP in 2014 for his significant influence on the genre. In 2015, Smith and his son Tyler wrote the score and soundtrack for the film 90 Minutes in Heaven, which he also has a small acting role in.
In November 2015, Smith and Amy Grant started their annual Christmas tour again after a roughly 15-year break.
Smith's second hymns album, called Hymns II - Shine on Us, was released on January 29, 2016. On February 23, 2018, Smith released another album called Surrounded which is his first live worship album in ten years. On February 22, 2019, Smith released Awaken: The Surrounded Experience, a live worship album.
Smith continues to record and write music today and is often heard on CCM radio. Smith is a three-time Grammy Award winner, an American Music Award recipient, and has earned 45 Dove Awards. In 1999, ASCAP awarded him with the "Golden Note" Award for lifetime achievement in songwriting, and in 2014 they honored him as the "cornerstone of Christian music" for his significant influence on the genre. He also has recorded 31 No. 1 Hit songs, fourteen gold albums, and five platinum albums. He has also starred in two films and published 14 books.