Born Andraé Edward Crouch on July 1, 1942, in Los Angeles, CA; son of Benjamin Jerome (a preacher and dry-cleaning business owner) and Catherine Dorothea Crouch. Education: Studied elementary education, Valley Junior College, San Fernando, CA; religious studies, Life Bible Institute, Los Angeles. Addresses: Record company--Liquid 8 Records & Entertainment, 4400 Baker Rd., Ste. 600, Minnetonka, MN 55343. Agent--William Morris Agency, 1325 Ave. of the Americas, New York, NY 10019.
In an era when religious music in contemporary styles seems a significant and permanent part of the musical landscape, it is important to remember that at one time gospel music, especially, was almost exclusively rooted in long traditions. One person above all others expanded the gospel vocabulary to include elements of R&B and modern popular styles. Contemporary gospel's pioneer was Andraé Crouch, who over a thirty-year career has become one of the most influential musicians in the United States. Both the wide swath of black gospel performers who draw on R&B and the legions of white contemporary Christian artists who blur the line between sacred and secular with middle-of-the-road romantic styles owe Crouch a musical debt.
Crouch was born in Los Angeles on July 1, 1942. His twin sister Sandra and older brother Benjamin were both musical, and he is also the cousin of noted jazz critic Stanley Crouch. The three Crouch children sang in a trio at the behest of their father, who had begun to preach in order to strengthen his prayers to God that his son might be given musical talent. One Sunday, when Andraé was 11, his father preached at a church in Val Verde, California, and then called Andraé to the piano to accompany the church's choir in the hymn "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." Although Andraé, according to his own recollections, had never played the piano before, he performed successfully.
Music helped Crouch overcome shyness and a stammering impediment. "I started singing what I had to say," he recalled to People. "People became music to me because everything they said was a song." Indeed, Crouch began composing songs at age 14 and has never really slowed down; he still composes each morning during the prayers for which he rises at 6 a.m. Crouch moved with his family to the San Fernando Valley suburb of Pacoima when he was in junior high school, and his musical talents burgeoned.
Formed Group with Billy Preston
In high school Crouch formed a group called the COGICS (an acronym for Church of God in Christ Singers) which also included vocalist Billy Preston of "Will It Go Round in Circles?" fame. Crouch attended Valley Junior College and Life Bible College in the Los Angeles area and counseled recovering drug addicts, but his heart was in music. By the mid-1960s he had put together another group, the Disciples, and the first of six Andraé Crouch and the Disciples albums, Take the Message Everywhere, was released in 1971 on the Light label.
Crouch's solo career began with the LP Just Andraé; in 1972, and throughout the 1970s his reputation rose steadily. Crouch and the Disciples toured worldwide, and in 1975 and 1979 they performed to sellout crowds at New York's Carnegie Hall. Already they were pushing the boundaries of gospel by introducing features of contemporary R&B styles, and gaining new fans from far outside the usual gospel sphere. Crouch's crossover gospel encompassed several aspects of secular music, including pop-style vocal arrangements, production techniques, and, most important, Crouch's crooned vocals themselves, miles removed from the intense fervor of traditional gospel.
The Disciples stormed another citadel of secular culture with an appearance on the NBC television Saturday Night Live comedy show in 1980; Crouch was later invited back for a solo performance. Crouch and the Disciples took home Grammy awards every year from 1978 through 1981, and Crouch's presence on the annual Dove Christian music awards roster was practically guaranteed for several years. However, Crouch did not let stardom interfere with his songwriting activities, and several of his 1970s compositions, including "Through It All" and "Take Me Back," have entered the gospel tradition's standard repertory.
Criticism from Purists
Despite Crouch's success, he had experienced a certain undertone of criticism from followers of traditional gospel, some of whom felt that his use of secular styles diluted the religious content of his lyrics. These concerns flared into the open with the 1981 release of the solo Crouch release Don't Give Up, which made an explicit bid for sales in the secular market with its up-to-the-minute studio techniques and topical lyrics. Crouch weathered the storm, telling Billboard that "[e]very album I've done has been controversial...It's not anything new for me. It's just time for me to say it." The album was released on the mainstream Warner Brothers label, but Crouch also continued to record for the more gospel-oriented Light label in the early 1980s.
The Crouch bandwagon rolled on for several more years, with the singer adding a new entry to his long list of Grammy awards with one for the No Time to Lose album of 1984. Then spiritual and physical exhaustion set in. In 1982 Crouch was arrested on cocaine possession charges, but maintained that the substance found in his car was instant chicken soup powder. Police eventually declined to press charges, but the experience took its toll on Crouch. "I had been traveling so much, I just decided it was time I got off the road at least part of the time and devoted some time to my family and to my church," he told American Visions. He also produced and composed songs for other artists, including 1980s superstar Michael Jackson, and gained critical acclaim for the historically detailed music he composed and arranged for the 1985 film The Color Purple.
Took Over Father's Ministry
Crouch's life took a new direction after his mother, father, and older brother Benjamin all died within a short period between 1993 and 1994. Shortly before his death, Crouch's father had maintained that his son was destined for the ministry--an idea that Crouch had always strongly resisted. "But, he knew I was going to be [a minister] one day," Crouch recalled to Jet. "And before he died, he said, 'Andraé, I want you to be ready. Have three black suits ready at all times.'" Crouch took over his father's Christ Memorial Church of God in Christ in Pacoima after his father's death, although he had little training as a preacher. His brother helped Crouch with the transition before meeting his own end several months later.
Even then, Crouch was unsure of his mission. But, he told People magazine, he had an otherworldly experience that convinced him to step into the pulpit: a mysterious force threw him to the floor as he sat one day listening to a sermon, and he heard a voice telling him to take over the church. "You will tell me yes," Crouch remembered hearing. "I've put too much into you for you to say no. Not 'right on,' not 'uh-huh.' 'Yes!'" The next night, Crouch remembered, he slept through the night for the first time since his mother had died.
Soon, attendance at the church had doubled. Crouch released the Mercy CD in 1994, for which he won yet another Grammy Award. He continued to compose and to make appearances as a performer. But the church consumed the lion's share of his energies during this time.
Despite the controversies that shadowed his own progressive music in the 1970s, he has been critical of certain more recent trends including the incursion of rap styles into gospel music. His enormous place in history, however, is secure, and was illustrated by the release in 1996 of the album Tribute: The Songs of Andraé Crouch. Of the countless gospel artists for whom Crouch's influence was critical, the album featured a representative selection including the Winans, Take 6, and Michael W. Smith.
Crouch continued to record through the 1990s and into the 2000s, releasing Pray in 1997, quickly followed by Gift of Christmas in 1998, Hall of Fame in 1999, Legends of the Gospel in 2002, Kings of Gospel in 2003, and He's Everywhere in 2004.
by James M. Manheim and Michael Belfiore
Andraé Crouch's Career
Organized group COGICS (Church of God in Christ Singers) while in high school; organized the Disciples, 1965, and toured and recorded with them as lead singer, 1965-80; signed to Light records and released debut album, Take the Message Everywhere, 1971; 12 albums for Light and six solo albums, 1971-84; recorded solo album Don't Give Up in heavily pop-influenced style for Warner Bros., 1981; released Mercy, 1994; producer and collaborator with other artists, 1980s; pastor, Christ Memorial Church of God in Christ, Pacoima, CA, 1995-; released Pray, 1997; Gift of Christmas, 1998; inducted into the Gospel Hall of Fame, 1998; released Hall of Fame, 1998; released Legends of Gospel, 2002; Kings of Gospel, 2003; He's Everywhere, 2004.
Andraé Crouch's Awards
Grammy Awards, Best Soul Gospel Performance (with the Disciples) for Take Me Back, 1975; Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Performance (with the Disciples) for Live in London, 1978; Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Performance for I'll Be Thinking of You, 1979; Best Contemporary or Inspirational Soul Gospel Performance (with others) for The Lord's Prayer, 1980; Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Performance for Don't Give Up, 1981; Best Male Soul Gospel Performance for No Time to Lose, 1984; Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album for Mercy, 1994; numerous Dove awards, other gospel awards.
- Selected discography
- Solo albums
- Just Andraé Light, 1973.
- Don't Give Up Warner Bros., 1981.
- Andraé Crouch--More of the Best Light, 1982.
- Finally Light, 1982.
- No Time to Lose Light, 1984.
- Contemporary Man Light, 1991.
- Let's Worship Him Arrival/K-Tel, 1993.
- Mercy Quest, 1994.
- Pray Warner Bros., 1997.
- Gift of Christmas Warner Bros., 1998.
- Hall of Fame CGI Platinum, 1999.
- Legends of Gospel Light, 2002.
- Kings of Gospel Universal Special Products, 2003.
- He's Everywhere Liquid 8, 2004.
- With the Disciples
- Take the Message Everywhere Light, 1971.
- Keep On Singing Light, 1971.
- Soulfully Light, 1972.
- Live at Carnegie Hall Light, 1973.
- Take Me Back Light, 1974.
- This Is Another Day Light, 1976.
- Live in London Light, 1978.
- I'll Be Thinking of You Light, 1979.
- Crouch, Andraé, Through It All, Word, 1974.
- Hitchcock, H. Wiley, and Stanley Sadie, editors, The New Grove Dictionary of American Music, Macmillan, 1986.
- Larkin, Colin, editor, The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Muze UK, 1998.
- American Visions, August-September 1994, p. 48.
- Billboard, November 7, 1981; September 14, 1996, p. 10.
- Christianity Today, March 4, 1983, p. 66.
- Jet, September 13, 1982, p. 64; October 16, 1995, p. 32.
- People, October 23, 1995, p. 103.
- "Andrae Crouch," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (September 3, 2004).
- GRAMMY.com, http://www.grammy.com/awards/search/index.aspx (September 3, 2004).