Jan 12, 2015

Andraé Crouch, 1942 - 2015

"Every song I've written takes you through the Scriptures and reinforces the word of God," Andraé Crouch told the Los Angeles Times in 1982. "I give people a beautiful message, but I do it with pop, rock, funk, jazz or disco or anything that will make it appealing."

Crouch, gospel musician widely hailed as the best of the modern era and the greatest hymn writer of his time, has died at the age of 72. He had been sick a while and was hospitalized in December.

At Religion Dispatches, Anthea Butler writes that Crouch's connection to Pentecostalism cannot be ignored:
It is the genius of Andraé Crouch's talent that flowed from his Pentecostal upbringing in the Church of God in Christ that made him the powerful songwriter and singer he was. Along with his sister Sandra, his first group, the COGICS (Church of God in Christ Singers) featured Billy Preston. He would then go on to form the group Disciples in 1965. While COGIC churches emphasized holy living and strict discipline, their cutting edge musical styles and choir presentation helped groups like the Disciples to break out into the mainstream music scene. The tension between serving God and singing for the world would put Crouch often at odds with those who felt his music was not “holy” enough. Yet it was in those long church services and constant revival meetings as a child that Crouch’s distinctive musical style and lyrics were formed. His music became a bridge in the late 1960’s and would not only cross racial lines, but form the foundation for contemporary Christian and gospel music.
According to Robert Darden at Christianity Today, "Amy Grant may have made CCM popular; Andrae made it sound great."

Billboard also notes the importance of Crouch's crossover success, reporting, "He was often praised for bridging the gap between popular music and gospel, bringing a contemporary pop and R&B sensibility to his music."

NPR's Francine Kelley writes that this combination of sacred and secular involved a very conservative musical sensibility, even though it was often perceived as experimental and cutting edge. Kelley writes that Crouch
played a major role in creating a more contemporary, conservative gospel sound. The demonstrative shouts of the sanctified church were toned down to appeal to the broadest possible audience. Crouch was on The Jeffersons and he played Billy Graham crusades, the White House -- even the Grand Ole Opry. Tennessee Ernie Ford introduced him from stage, in a performance that aired on PBS in 1985: 'Now the man I'm about to introduce is a rare talent. He not only sings -- he sings fine gospel, but he's a fantastic writer.' 
Songs Crouch wrote in the 1960s are still in use.
Crouch himself didn't describe his music that way. In that interview with the Los Angeles Times in 1982, he talked about being bored by traditional music. For him music needed to be inventive and fun. Whatever the explanation of his musical style, it was very successful.

From the New York Times:
A gospel crooner with a keen sense of melody and a voice both velvety and powerful, Mr. Crouch won seven Grammy Awards for his performances of songs professing his ardent Christian faith.

His best-known, often performed with a choir, included 'The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power,' a slow, pulsing, bluesy number that he wrote as a teenager; 'My Tribute (To God Be the Glory),' which begins with the longing of a torch song and swells to an anthem; and 'Soon and Very Soon,' which, with its joyous R&B flavor, was sung by a choir at a public memorial for Michael Jackson. They were both churchly and rocking, and they gave Mr. Crouch a following beyond the realm of gospel fans.