Andraé Crouch was a gospel singer, songwriter and choir director whose work graced songs by Michael Jackson and Madonna and films such as The Lion King.
He wrote his first gospel tune when he was 14, and went on to write dozens more, including gospel favourites such as “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power,” “My Tribute (To God Be the Glory)” and “Soon and Very Soon,” which was sung at a public memorial to Jackson.
Starting out in 1960, Crouch helped pioneer the burgeoning “Jesus Music” movement from the late 1960s and ’70s that fuelled the spread of contemporary Christian music. His influence crossed over into in pop, and Elvis Presley performed his song “I’ve Got Confidence” for a 1972 gospel album, while Paul Simon recorded “Jesus Is the Answer” for a 1974 live album.
Crouch worked with many other big names, from Diana Ross to Ringo Starr, and his gospel albums sometimes featured performers from other genres. His 18th solo album, The Journey, released in 2011, featured Chaka Khan, Sheila E, Take 6, Kim Burrell and Marvin Winans.
His choir, the Disciples, sang background for Madonna’s song “Like a Prayer”, and he helped Michael Jackson arrange his 1987 hit song “Man in the Mirror.” He also arranged music for the 1985 film The Color Purple – which earned him an Academy Award nomination – as well as Disney’s The Lion King in 1994.
Success for Crouch – one of only a handful of gospel performers to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – came despite a lifelong struggle with dyslexia. To create, he would make drawings that allowed him to grasp the concept. For the Jackson song, he drew a mirror with an image in it.
“I memorised everything through sight, the shape of the word,” he said. “Some things that I write, you’ll see a page with cartoon pictures or a drawing of a car – like a Ford – or a flag. I still do it on an occasion when a word is strange to me. So when I finish a song, I thank God for bringing me through. You have to press on and know your calling.” In fact he believed that dyslexia contributed to his success: “If I was sharp in every area, I might be too big-headed or something,” he said.
Crouch and his sister, Sandra Crouch, were pastors at the New Christ Memorial Church in the Los Angeles suburb of San Fernando. He had suffered ill-health in recent years, including diabetes and cancer, and died following a suspected heart attack.
Andraé Edward Crouch, singer, songwriter, producer and pastor: born San Francisco 1 July 1942; died Los Angeles 8 January 2015.