We continue Gospel Music Week with the wonderful Andrae Crouch.
Born Andraé Edward Crouch in San Francisco, California, where his parents managed a dry cleaners. His father, Benjamin Crouch, also had a street ministry, and ministered in hospitals and in prison. Crouch was eleven years old when his father was invited to preach at a small church in a farming community. The church didn’t have a pastor so the bishop invited Crouch’s father to become the pastor. That first Sunday, Crouch’s father asked him to come up front. He said, “Andraé, if God gave you the gift of music to play and sing for him would you do it for his glory all your life?” Crouch said, “Yeah daddy.” A couple of weeks later, his father asked him to come up as the congregation was singing. He said, “If you’re gonna play, play.” Crouch found the key, and started to play the piano. As he got a little older, he started to write songs, and lead a choir. Until he was fourteen, he had a stuttering problem—so he let his sister talk for him in public.  
Crouch’s first group was the Church of God in Christ Singers (COGICS) in 1960, which included Billy Preston. The COGICS were the first group to record the song “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power.”
While attending Valley Junior College in California for a career in teaching, he was called to the ministry and formed The Disciples in 1965, along with Perry Morgan, and Bili Thedford. The group became a frequent attraction at “Monday Night Sing” concerts in southern California put on by promoter Audrey Mieir. Mieir would introduce Crouch to Tim Spencer of Manna Music Publishing who would be the first to publish one of his songs (“The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power” which was written by Crouch at age 15 but tossed in the trash because he thought it poor. Sister Sandra thought differently and salvaged it.) In turn, Spencer helped launch their recording career by introducing the group to Light Records founder Ralph Carmichael. Sherman Andrus and Reuben Fernandez were added to the group in time to record their first album, Take The Message Everywhere, in 1968. They were subsequently replaced by Crouch’s twin sister Sandra in 1970. Sherman Andrus went on to join the Imperials. In 1972, singer Danniebelle Hall, trumpeter Fletch Wiley, Harlan Rogers, Hadley Hockensmith and drummer Bill Maxwell joined the Disciples. Many support singers, Kathy Hazzard, Bea Carr, and James Felix were part of the Disciples entourage. Bili Thedford and Danniebelle left for a solo careers.
At the urging of Carmichael, Crouch began to record his compositions in 1968 with the group’s debut album Take the Message Everywhere releasing in 1969. In 1972, the Disciples appeared on network television’s The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. By 1985, they had also performed at the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall and toured 68 countries. Crouch’s most popular songs from this period include “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power”, “Through It All”, “Bless His Holy Name”, “Soon and Very Soon”, “Jesus is the Answer”, and “My Tribute”. Their contemporary gospel sound reached beyond the traditional African American base and touched a racially and musically diverse audience.
The Disciples disbanded in 1979 and Crouch continued on with his solo career with an ensemble Howard Smith, Linda McCrary, Táta Vega and Kristle Murden as well as with the Andraé Crouch Singers. Joe Sample, Wilton Felder, Dean Parks, David Paich, Phillip Bailey, Stevie Wonder, and other secular artists were featured on all of Crouch’s major recording sessions. Crouch had a gift of bringing out unique voices in solos on his projects including El Debarge on “The Lord is my Light” or Táta Vega on “Oh it is Jesus”. He has co-produced with Bill Maxwell projects for The Winans, Danniebelle Hall and Kristle Murden. Many musical acts and solo performers covered his more popular works, including Elvis Presley (“I’ve Got Confidence”), further expanding Crouch’s musical influence. In 1995, he was featured in the Warren Chaney docudrama, America: A Call to Greatness.
In 2006, Crouch released Mighty Wind, a 40th anniversary album featuring guest performances by, Lauren Evans, Crystal Lewis, Karen Clark Sheard, Táta Vega, and Marvin Winans.
Crouch was also a judge for the 10th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists’ careers.
Crouch was a key figure in the Jesus Music movement of the 1960s and 1970s. As a result, helped bring about contemporary Christian music, and began to bridge the gap between black and white Christian music. Though sometimes criticized for diluting the Gospel message by using contemporary styles, his songs have become staples in churches all around the world and recorded by mainstream artists such as Elvis Presley and Paul Simon.
Crouch is also credited with revolutionizing the sound of urban Gospel music. Crouch was instrumental in bringing Walter and Tramaine Hawkins, Jessy Dixon and The Winans to Light Records, all enjoying successful gospel music careers. His influence has extended to countless artists like BeBe and CeCe Winans, The Clark Sisters, Wintley Phipps, Anointed and Israel Houghton.
In 1996, Crouch’s songs were the impetus for the Grammy Award- winning CD, Tribute: The Songs of Andraé Crouch (released on Warner Bros. Records), which featured a range of artists performing some of his classic songs including the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, Take 6 and Michael W. Smith.
Crouch and his sister, Sandra considered Michael Jackson as a dear friend for many years, whom they loved and greatly respected. In 1987, the Andraé Crouch Choir sang background vocals along with Siedah Garrett, Glen Ballard, and The Winans on Jackson’s hit single, “Man in the Mirror” from the Bad album. The Andraé Crouch Singers were also featured on the songs, “Keep the Faith” and “Will You Be There” from Jackson’s 1991 Dangerous album. Andraé and Sandra also did the choir arrangement for those songs. On Jackson’s HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I project in 1995, the Andraé Crouch Choir chants climactically in a dramatic interaction with Jackson on “Earth Song.” Crouch’s composition, “Soon and Very Soon” was performed at the public memorial service for Jackson at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.