I’m moved today to pay tribute to one of the great musical talents of the past century. Andraé Crouch was a singer, musician, composer, choir director, producer, and pastor during his 72 years. He died Friday Jan 8, after suffering a heart attack.
From the first time I heard Andraé back in about 1974, I knew he was something special. At the time, I worked for the record company that distributed his band, the awkwardly named “Andraé Crouch and the Disciples”. I’ll never forget when some wise guy in the warehouse held up one of the band’s albums and mocked its name and cover. My manager, a musician himself, scolded the guy, “Don’t laugh. That’s a rocking band. Too bad he’s singing for Jesus.”
Too bad, huh? I say he wouldn’t have created so much great and timeless music, were it not for the help and inspiration of his Savior.
Here are just a few of his accomplishments:
- Seven Grammy awards.
- An Oscar nomination for the music he wrote for “The Color Purple”. He also did some of the music for “The Lion King” among other film and TV work.
- His songs were recorded by Elvis and Paul Simon. He backed up Madonna and Michael Jackson.
- He produced and played with a constellation of pop, R&B, and gospel stars (Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Chaka Khan, Billy Preston, … the list goes on and on.)
- He has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
Above all that acclaim were the hymns he wrote that fill hymnals in churches around the world across all denominations. He wrote his first hymn at 14. One of the first I ever heard was “Through It All”, which saw me through some hard times. To many, his most cherished composition was the beautiful “My Tribute”. Probably his best known song to the rest of the world (it was played at Michael Jackson’s public memorial service) is “Soon and Very Soon”.
I’d lost track of Andraé for a while, until I happened upon a copy of his 1994 Grammy winning CD at the local library. “Mercy” is, in my opinion, one of the greatest recordings ever made. It rocks, it swings, it inspires. It’s funky, it’s spiritual. Some of its songs make me want to dance, others bring me to tears. After all these years, I still play it constantly. (I’m playing it now.) Its successor, “Pray”, is almost as good.
By the time of his death at age 72 this past Friday, Jan 8, he had suffered from cancer, diabetes, and congestive heart failure. He also dealt with dyslexia his whole life. Still, he sang. Just last month, he had planned to start a new tour but was forced to cancel it.
Andraé leaves a twin sister Sandra, who sang with him on most of his music. At her brother’s death, she released the following statement: “Today my twin brother, womb-mate and best friend went home to be with the Lord. Please keep me, my family and our church family in your prayers. I tried to keep him here but God loved him best.”
Andraé once told the LA Times, “It’s a pity that a lot of great messages have been wasted because they have been paired with bad music. That’s what’s wrong with a lot of traditional church music. That’s why most of it bores me.”
No one will ever accuse Andraé Crouch or his music of being boring.
I miss him already.