R.I.P. Andrae Crouch: Remembering the Gospel Great's Immense Influence

A Grammy winning legend in the gospel music field, the late Andrae Crouch's influence extended well beyond the walls of the church -- artists across all music genres are mourning the passing of the acclaimed singer, songwriter, arranger, producer, musician and pastor. Crouch, 72, suffered a heart attack on Jan. 3 and died at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in the Los Angeles area on Jan. 8.

"To say the legendary Andrae Crouch was an influence on my life would be a vast understatement," says Grammy winner Jason Crabb. "One of the highlights of my career was to perform his classic song, 'The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power,' as he played the piano during a Bill Gaither video taping. I'll never forget it. We've lost a true pioneer and he will be missed."

Andrae Crouch, Gospel Great, Dead at 72

"Growing up in Kenova, West Virginia -- I'll never forget hearing Andrae for the first time," Michael W. Smith tells Billboard. "It was like someone had opened a whole new world of possibilities for me musically. I don't think there is anyone who inspired me more, growing up, than Andre Crouch. The depth of his influence on Christian music is incalculable. We all owe him so much and I'll forever be grateful for the times we got to work together."

During a career that spanned more than 50 years, Crouch's immense talent and kind heart dissolved musical boundaries and earned the respect of peers in every genre. He collaborated with such icons as Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Diana Ross, Elton John and Madonna. Inducted into the Gospel Music Association's Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1998, Crouch made musical contributions to such films as Once Upon A Forest, The Color Purple, The Lion King and Free Willy.

A seven-time Grammy winner, Crouch also earned numerous accolades including six Dove Awards, ASCAP, Billboard, NAACP Image Awards and an Academy Award nomination for The Color Purple. He is one of the very few gospel artists to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

"Today my twin brother, womb-mate and best friend went home to be with the Lord," Crouch's sister, Pastor Sandra Crouch, said in a statement. "Please keep me, my family and our church family in your prayers. I tried to keep him here but God loved him best. Details of Andraé's celebration service and tribute will be forthcoming."

The Crouch siblings were pastors at the New Christ Memorial Church in San Fernando, CA. Crouch had been in failing health in recent weeks, and was hospitalized in December with pneumonia and congestive heart failure, forcing him to postpone his Let the Church Say Amen Celebration Tour.

Born in San Francisco, Crouch's father ran a dry cleaning business and had a street ministry. He encouraged his son's musical gift. "My father always said, 'Every song you write Andraé, let it parallel scripture; then it will heal. It will deliver. It will bring life. Your opinion won't do anything, but God's word will,'" Andraé noted in an interview for his 2011 album, The Journey. "'Just keep his word in every song that you write and it will penetrate through people's hearts. If we get the word to them, it will speak to them. The words of God will cut through steel.'"

Crouch wrote one of his most popular songs, "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power," as a teenager. "I was at a picnic and there were a lot of songwriters," he chronicled. "I remember praying, 'God I wish you would give me a song.' About five minutes later my ears popped and I saw everybody in slow motion. Nobody knew what I was experiencing."

Crouch wrote "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power," but lacking confidence in his work, he threw it in the trashcan. Sandra, retrieved it, and the adults at the picnic took notice. "They came in and started singing it and said, 'What is that song?' Sandra told them I just wrote it," he recalled, "and all these mature voices started singing it. Everybody was crying."

Crouch put together a group called The Disciples and became one of the most influential artists during the Jesus Movement of the '60s and '70s. They performed on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1972, a landmark accomplishment for a gospel group, and went on to appear on nearly every major television show of the day and embarked on a world tour fueled by such hits as "Through It All," "Bless His Holy Name" and "My Tribute."

By 1979, The Disciples had disbanded and Crouch embarked on a solo career that would expand into film and television, including the 1985 film The Color Purple. He recalled Steven Spielberg and Quincy Jones asking him to meet them at Spielberg's house where they recruited him to write music for the film. "I went home that night and I wrote probably 14 songs in one night and I took them over to his house and he loved them all," Crouch said. "I had a good time writing it and getting the singers together to sing it."

Crouch's songs were recorded by numerous artists, including Elvis Presley, who cut "I've Got Confidence" on his 1972 gospel album, and Paul Simon, who covered "Jesus Is the Answer" on a 1974 live album. His fusion of gospel, pop and R&B made him an in demand arranger and his choir sang on Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" and Madonna's "Like a Prayer."

In 2011, Crouch released his 18th solo album, The Journey, which peaked at No. 3 on the Top Gospel Albums list. It featured appearances by Kim Burrell, Take 6, Chaka Khan, Sheila E., Rance Allen, Tata Vega and Pastor Marvin Winans.

The project was produced by Luther "Mano" Haynes. "As a producer you dream of working with the true legends," he said. "I have had the ultimate honor in working with one of the greatest legends and songwriters in Gospel music history, Pastor Andraé Crouch."

Crouch's final album was Live in Los Angeles, released on Riverphlo Records, which bowed at No. 18 on Top Gospel Albums in Oct. 2013.

Throughout his life, Crouch was unwavering in using his musical gifts to bring others to know God. "Every day we hear that somebody got saved to our music from all over the world," he said. "The music reaches people. It can encourage them. I feel like I have to do it because there's somebody out there who needs to hear the gospel. That's all I want in life is to be remembered as a guy that really loved God."

He definitely will.

THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.