Let the church say "amen": Remembering the father of modern gospel

Abbi Webb, Assistant Editor 

On Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, gospel music lost one of its greatest musicians. Andrae Crouch, legendary gospel singer, musician and songwriter died in the aftermath of a heart attack at a Los Angeles area hospital.

Crouch had been struggling with a number of health issues when he was hospitalized Saturday, January 3, 2015 at the Northridge Hospital Medical Center for serious health complications. He died at the age of 72.

Crouch paved the way for modern gospel singers, having written some of the most well-known gospel songs sung in churches today. Most notable are, “Soon and Very Soon” and “The Blood Will Never Loose it’s Power.” With the upbeat and soulful melodies he incorporated into his gospel songs, Crouch reached beyond church congregations and won seven Grammy awards for his music.

 Crouch began playing music at his father's church when he was 11 years old. He wrote his first gospel song at 14. 

Crouch began playing music at his father's church when he was 11 years old. He wrote his first gospel song at 14. 

Beginning as a choir director with the Church of God in Christ Singers, a singing group he formed in 1960, Crouch went on to lead the back-up choirs for hit songs like Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror and Madonna’s Living on a Prayer, according to a USA Today article. Crouch also worked and collaborated with stars like Elton John, Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder.

At a Billy Graham crusade in New Mexico in 1975 where Crouch preformed "Through It All," he spoke of his humble beginnings as a gospel musician and his personal salvation at nine years old. His father was a preacher at a small church outside of Los Angeles and was in need of a musician, Crouch said. Two weeks after his father prayed over him for the gift of music, he began leading music at 11 years old. Crouch wrote his first gospel tune at age 14 and would much later earn the title "the father of modern gospel."

Music Director for Joyful Sound at North Greenville, Josh Epton, said that he has always loved Crouch’s music, even before he knew it was his, and uses it as an inspiration in leading Joyful Sound.

“Over the years Joyful Sound has sung many of Crouch’s songs and they are always some of our favorites,” said Epton.

Crouch desired for his music to be used by God in powerful ways all over the world and to all different people. Epton said that he has a similar desire for his own music and considers Crouch’s musicianship a personal inspiration.

“I have always wanted to play the piano like Andre does,” he said. "One of the first songs I learned to play was 'My Tribute.' Although I have never personally met him, the songs he has written have ministered to me and I have sung them hoping they would minister to others,” Epton added.

Because Crouch delivered powerful gospel messages attached to universally appealing melodies, he was able to break genre barriers and gain the respect of many mainstream artists. Epton said he believes this is a way to share Christ’s love to those who don’t know Him.

“I hope he influenced them [mainstream artists] spiritually by sharing the gospel,” he said. “If I had the opportunity to work with them I would seek an opportunity to share the love of Jesus.”