Gospel Great Andraé Crouch Dies at 72. That is the headline. It’s the headline because it’s right. It’s true! But the more I think about who and what Andraé Crouch was and will continue to be to the landscape of contemporary music, although the headline is true, it still isn’t enough.
Gospel music as a genre or an art form isn’t new. Long before the pioneering singer-songwriter was ever born there was gospel music, spiritual music, inspirational music, religious music, etc. The sound is and was familiar and you knew exactly what it was when you heard it. What made Andraé special wasn’t that he received recognition and celebrity for crafting “more” gospel music. What Crouch did was recreate gospel music in such a way that it went beyond itself. He made music that worked for you. It worked for you if you weren’t going to church every Sunday. It worked for you if you just wanted to hear good music. It worked for you if you were tired of hearing your momma’s or your grandma’s gospel music. It found a way to connect with you and make it your music. It was just good music.
The Reverend Martin Luther King,Jr. once said, "It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o'clock on Sunday morning." Even as church culture shifts and church services around the world are becoming slightly more integrated racially, it’s no secret that musical styles are still what separate most church services. Andraé Crouch, in a relatively short time span, penned music that was so uniquely ecumenical that it literally transcended these dividing lines of church and eventually went far outside the building.
You don’t believe me? Think about that time you almost threw something at the television during the church scene in The Color Purple when Shug Avery sang, “Maybe God is trying to tell you something?” Andraé Crouch did that.
How about that time you went to church with your mother or grandmother on Easter or Mother’s Day and she leaned over and said, “Go ahead, baby, and go to the altar.” That tune “Take Me Back” that was playing in the background while she walked you tearfully down that aisle? Andraé Crouch did that.
Or perhaps in your Madonna phase (we all had one), you started clapping and swaying to the vamp of “Like a Prayer” and couldn’t understand why. Andraé Crouch did that.
Or maybe you did go back to church alone straight from your living room during the homegoing of Whitney Houston that was broadcast all around the world and were comforted by the closing song of Rev. Marvin Winan’s eulogy, “God Has Spoken, Let the Church Say Amen." Perhaps you were fighting back tears at the opening of Michael Jackson’s funeral as Andraé and Sandra Crouch led the choir in “Soon and Very Soon.”
Whatever it was, regardless of your religious affiliation, Andrae Crouch’s music and influence touched you in places and ways you may never know. But now that he’s gone and there will be no more songs, take a moment and remember the life and music of the man that made us all say, “To God Be the Glory for the Things He Has Done.”
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(Photo: AP Photo/Frank Wiese, File)