Crouch worked with the biggest names in pop music but remained revered in church. These performances attest to his unique legacy
The difference between Motown and gospel, the saying goes, is that they’re essentially the same music, except that you substitute the word “baby” in the former with “Jesus” in the latter.
To see how connected R&B is to the tradition of African American gospel music, you needn’t look any further than the life of Andraé Crouch, who died on Thursday at the age of 72. Crouch, a prolific composer, performer and arranger, is one of only a handful of gospel performers to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Yet despite his secular success, he was always revered in the church. Very few musicians can claim to have the respect of Billy Graham while also appearing in the credits of Michael Jackson’s Bad.
Crouch “became the go-to vocal arranger for Los Angeles recording sessions that needed a gospel sound”, USA Today reported, meaning there was virtually no one he didn’t work with at one time or another. Here are five songs which show the breadth of Crouch’s genius, and why he was respected by American figures and collaborators as diverse as Graham, Jackson, Paul Simon, Elvis Presley, Madonna, Ringo Starr and Diana Ross.
Recorded in 1983 by Sandra Crouch and Friends, He’s Worthy is a staple of contemporary gospel music, particularly for female choirs. Crouch collaborated often with his twin sister, who sang with him, acted as his manager and led with her brother a California ministry begun by their parents. Andraé wrote for his sister’s choir, his own (Andraé Crouch and the Disciples), and worked with other gospel heavyweights like the Winans.
Can’t Nobody Do Me Like Jesus
“Billy Graham called him the greatest hymn writer of our age, the modern-day John Wesley,” a young LeVar Burton says as he introduces Crouch in the video above, his sister Sandra and their singers belting out Can’t Nobody Do Me Like Jesus. The song is a pillar of contemporary gospel, performed often in churches; and yet, Crouch works the number like a Motown star, with a sweating, open-shirted, suave look – complete with gold chain and chest hair – that would look as at home on Marvin Gaye or Isaac Hayes.
The Force Behind the Power
The Force Behind the Power is a convergence of major musical talent from black America. In the above video, the Stevie Wonder-produced song was performed live by Diana Ross and the Crouch twins. The song was also performed live in 1992 for the 50th birthday of Muhammad Ali.
Let the Church Say Amen
The death of Whitney Houston, the niece of Dionne Warwick, was not just felt in American pop and R&B but in the African American gospel music family. Houston came up in the church, and was memorialized in this live recording at her funeral with Marvin Winans performing one of Crouch’s most famous ballads, Let the Church Say Amen.