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The mighty winds of change

Gospel legend Andrae Crouch battled racism while building a legacy in Christian music.

July 07, 2006|Matt Curry | Associated Press

GRAPEVINE, Texas — As Andrae Crouch remembers it, the crowd was roaring -- until they actually saw the band.

Enthusiasm waned because many in the 1970s audience were startled to see something they apparently didn't know about Christian recording artists Andrae Crouch and the Disciples: They're black.

"It was like turning the stove on from burning hot, scorching hot, to low," Crouch said, laughing. "It would be like, from cayenne pepper to bubble gum."

Some began walking out of the Fort Worth concert, but everyone stayed once the group started playing, according to Crouch's recollection.

"The Lord gave us an expression of our own to reach people," said Crouch, one of the most celebrated gospel artists ever. "Some of my best friends today were people in that concert."

Crouch returns to Dallas-Fort Worth today to receive the International Worship Institute's Cherub Award in suburban Grapevine. Past winners include prolific gospel songwriters Bill and Gloria Gaither.

"He has transcended so many boundaries and borders," said LaMar Boschman, founder of the institute, which helps church leaders enhance worship services.

Crouch's songs, which include "My Tribute (To God Be the Glory)" and "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power," which he wrote at 14, span racial and cultural divisions. Andrae Crouch and the Disciples helped pioneer "Jesus music," a 1960s and '70s movement that spawned the current explosion in contemporary Christian music.

Crouch, 64, has won six Grammys for gospel performances and one for a pop/contemporary gospel album. He has also contributed to the secular music world, arranging Michael Jackson's 1987 hit song "Man in the Mirror" as well as the music from Disney's "The Lion King" in 1994 and Steven Spielberg's 1985 film "The Color Purple."

He just released his first album since 1997, "A Mighty Wind" (Verity).

Crouch's songs, which include reverent hymns and funky soul, have been performed by Elvis Presley and Paul Simon. In 2004, he became only the third gospel artist to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, joining Mahalia Jackson and the Rev. James Cleveland.

Crouch still composes songs -- as well as sermons -- and says more albums will come. He has 150 songs that have never been released. His head is filled with music, and he sometimes writes five or six songs in a day.

He credits God for the process. "Sometimes, I might be thinking of butterflies, and he'll give me a song about dinosaurs," he said. "I'll not even be thinking about the subject matter I'm writing about, I'm just playing around with something else."

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