Billy Graham called him, “The greatest hymn-writer of our age. The modern-day John Wesley.”
Andrae Crouch went to be with Jesus yesterday at the age of 72.
Though I never met him in person, few people outside my own family had as deep and lasting an impact on my formative years as Andrae and his music did.
The first record I ever bought was Just Andrae. I was 12. An older friend had been playing a cassette in his car and I begged him to tell me the name of the singer. Immediately, I did everything I could to raise the $3 needed to buy the album for myself. I can still remember my mother driving me home from the record store as I sat in the back seat and tore the plastic off the bright, blue cover featuring Andrae’s profile in that cool denim jacket and mutton-chop sideburns.
When we got home, I don’t know if the car was fully stopped when I jumped out and ran into the house. I placed the needle on fresh vinyl, turned up the volume as loud as my mother would allow and heard what still stands as some of the greatest music ever recorded.
When it finished playing on both sides, I listened to it again. And again. I drove my parents so crazy with it that they bought me my first set of headphones for my birthday.
I dare you to sit still as you watch and listen to this YouTube clip of Andrae singing “Can’t Nobody Do Me Like Jesus.”
Hey, That Sounds Like the Radio! Only Better!
Listening to Andrae Crouch was the first time in my life I heard Christian music that sounded like what my friends and I were listening to on the radio. Yet, it was completely unlike that music, too.
It was deep, beautiful, loud, passionate and soulful. Every part of his songs were strong. Catchy, singable melodies, stunning harmonies and world-class musicians all held together by elegant, profound lyrics of praise to Jesus. One of his most powerful songs, “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power”, was written when he was [gasp!] 15 years old.
After Just Andrae, I bought every Andrae Crouch album there was, then bought each subsequent one on the day they were released.
Andrae Crouch & the Disciples was the first concert I ever attended. And I kept going back every time he was within a couple hours driving distance. At least 10 concerts in all. Every time I went, I thought I knew what I was going to hear and feel, but he always exceeded even my loftiest expectations.
His music and message were raw, real and unashamed.
No one wrote songs like him, no one played piano like him and no one sang like him. You knew it was Andrae from the opening piano chords, guitar riffs or drum shots. But especially when you heard that one-of-a-kind voice.
No exclusively Christian singer has had the influence of Andrae Crouch, not just inside, but outside the church.
Even if you’ve never heard Andrae’s name before now, you’ve heard his music. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his arrangement work on The Color Purple and he contributed to the soundtracks for many other movies, including Free Willy and The Lion King.
He’s been cited as a musical influence by non-Gospel artists as varied as Elvis Presley, Diana Ross, Billy Preston, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon (who sang Andrae’s “Jesus Is the Answer” in his concerts for years), Michael Jackson and Madonna.
He won multiple Grammys and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
It’s hard to imagine a no-compromise Christian singer having that kind of crossover influence today.
Andrae’s Contribution to Today’s Worship
Andrae was a trailblazer. And it wasn’t always easy. He wrote and sang gritty, soul-stirring and body-shaking music with pounding drums and electric guitars in an an era when polite organ-led music was sung by robed choirs in most churches.
But the power of those songs could not be denied. Despite initial resistance, for many years it became almost impossible to go to a church and not hear an Andrae song being sung by the congregation. Even in the most button-down churches. Some of his songs, like “My Tribute”, “Through it All”, “Jesus Is the Answer” and “Bless His Holy Name” made it into the hymnbooks (remember those?).
Andrae’s home-going yesterday will receive less notice than he deserves, even in the Christian world. But every Christian singer alive today owes him a debt that they’ll never be able to repay.
The next time you sing a worship song written within the last 40 years that makes you want to raise or clap your hands or sing along at the top of your lungs, thank God first and Andrae second. He paved the way for every Christian singer and songwriter who followed him.
When people complain about the worship music of today not being as good as the music of our past, I have to disagree. Because I heard the same complaints about Andrae’s music when I was a kid.
There won’t be another Andrae Crouch. But I thank God that there’s room for a much wider variety of music in the church today because Andrae blazed a trail for songwriters like Darlene Zschech, Chris Tomlin, Kari Jobe and more.
Despite experiencing the pressures of fame that have crippled many others, Andrae’s most-lasting legacy may be that he kept his humility and his integrity. And he always gave the glory to Jesus.
As he sang countless times in perhaps his most well-known song, “My Tribute”
Should I gain any praise, let it go to Calvary
With his blood he has saved me
With his power he has raised me
To God be the glory
For the things he has done
So what do you think? Do you have any memories of the life and ministry of Andrae Crouch that you can share?
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