Andrae Crouch, often described as the “father of modern gospel music,” died Thursday in Los Angeles after suffering a heart attack last week, according to news reports. Crouch has been hospitalized in recent years for a variety of health issues, including diabetes and cancer.
“Today my twin brother, womb-mate and best friend went home to be with the Lord,” his twin sister, Sandra Couch, said in statement via the Los Angeles Times. “Please keep me, my family and our church family in your prayers. I tried to keep him here but God loved him best.”
Crouch won seven Grammy awards during his career and is credited with blending traditional black gospel music with R&B, pop and Christian music. Crouch led choirs that appeared on massive pop hits such as Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and Madonna’s “Like A Prayer.” He received an Academy Award nomination for his compositions for “The Color Purple,” and his music can be heard in “The Lion King” musical, too.
Writing for Christianity Today, Robert Darden, former gospel editor of Billboard, elaborated on what made Crouch such a prolific force: Crouch was an innovator, a path-finder, a precursor in an industry noted for its conservative, often derivative approach to popular music. He combined gospel and rock, flavored it with jazz and calypso as the mood struck him and the song called for it, and is even one of the founders of what is now called “praise and worship” music. He took risks with his art and was very, very funky when he wanted to be.
Crouch and his twin sister were pastors of the New Christ Memorial Church in San Fernando, Calif. Their parents founded Christ Memorial Church in Pacoima, a Los Angeles suburb. Crouch and Sandra took over after losing both parents and a brother within months of each other in 1994. They renamed their parents’ church after Crouch made his sister a co-pastor at a time when it was verboten to ordain women in the Church of God in Christ.
Crouch started his music career before he was in his teens. He told Decision, the magazine of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, that his mother bought him a cardboard keyboard when he was 11, and he taught himself to play piano by accompanying the choir at a church where his father used to preach — all improvisation. He composed “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power,” or simply “The Blood,” when he was just 14. It’s now considered a standard. In 1965, he formed Andraé Crouch and the Disciples.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said the most segregated hour in Christian America was 11 a.m. Sunday morning. Crouch’s talent transcended that. His songs could be found in the hymn books of white and black churches alike. Paul Simon recorded “Jesus is the Answer,” a Crouch composition, on his album “Paul Simon in Concert: Live Rhymin’.” Elvis recorded “I’ve Got Confidence,” also by Crouch, for his 1972 gospel album. Like Mahalia Jackson and James Cleveland, Crouch was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.