As told to Hasan James
Photography by Ta-Tanisha Thomas
The name Andrae Crouch is synonymous with gospel music. Songs like “Soon and Very Soon”, “Through It All”, There’s No Hatred”, “Power in the Blood” and so many others have become anthems in churches across the world. Over 40 years and seven Grammys later, Andrae Crouch is back with another classic album (as if his previous works were not enough).His new album, “The Journey”, is not just one of those albums that artists do to try and stay relevant, it is simply a masterpiece and undoubtedly one of the best albums to come out this year. I must say this was by far one of the best interviews of my career, not only because it was the one and only Andrae Crouch, but because of his humble and gracious attitude. During our hour long talk, Crouch opened up about his new album “The Journey”, his forty plus years in gospel music, his influences in gospel music and a rare conversation about “The King of Pop” Michael Jackson accepting Jesus one week before he died. Thought it was a rumor, huh? Continue reading and you will see Andrae Crouch in rare form. Thank God for this living legend..
Root: First, I would like to say Thank you for granting us this interview. This is a complete honor to be talking to you as I am 35 years old and don’t know life without Andrae Crouch music.
Andrae Crouch: Thank you for inviting me to speak with you.
Root: Your new album entitled “The Journey”. After 40 years in the business, what does that title mean to you.
Andrae Crouch: I’m glad to be alive! I just got back from Finland and Norway and I just thank God that we are still at it.
Root: Is there any place you have not been?
Andrae Crouch: I am sure there are some places but we have been to 72 countries.
Root: Going back to your album, I have to say that it is by far the best gospel album to come out this year. I had a chance to speak to Donald Lawrence and we were talking about the album and I was telling him that I could really see where he got his musical style. From the production to the writing to the background vocals, this album is one of your best works. After so many years after blessing the world with your music, how do you approach writing and producing now?
Andrae Crouch: That’s a good question. The way the Lord has dealt with me is that I don’t think about a style or an age group. If I hear something in my head melody or rhythm wise, I just put it on a CD and let it wrap it around in my head. I may add something to it and say to myself it may sound good with three flutes or a Mexican guitar player. The music has to take me somewhere. I may not be able to go to France but I have friends who are from France and their wife may know how to cook French food, and I will go over to their house and eat the food and feel like I’ve been to France. So I can create the environment I would need to do a particular song.
Root: You were very close with the “King of Pop”, Michael Jackson. Is it true that a few weeks before he died, he met with you and accepted Jesus or was that a rumor?
Andrae Crouch: Put it like this, we were getting ready to do another three songs with him at his house. On that day we talked and caught up on what was going n with him and vice versa and what was funny was he had this little cheap CD player with and he played music that he wanted me to arrange vocals for but he didn’t have any words and that was the first time that we worked with him and he didn’t have any lyrics. He started putting some words together and then I would write the next line and we did that back and forth. I then told him I could have the group back there to rehearse the songs separately because usually I was a little stand offish when we had the singers there because he would be talking to us from the booth, writing lyrics and all of that. At this point he didn’t know what the song would be but we kept writing back and forth. Michael then said to me “You wanna know why I love you and Sandra so much?’ and I said Why? He said, “Because I trust you guys and I love you”. He then wanted to set up a time where we can bring the singers to learn the song but he couldn’t get the words together so he brought his kids to the room where we were and he told them “This is the guy that arranged the songs that you guys like” and he told the children, “I love them”. He went on to say how much he loved us because he never heard anything about us saying negative stuff about him. What was really interesting was as we were talking he said, “Andrae, there are some things I wanted to ask you” and he said “When I see you on TV and you are singing and your hands are up in the air, is that called the anointing?” I said where did you hear that word? He said he didn’t know but when he sees it, it seems like when you do that, the power falls down, he said it’s very powerful. I was wondering where he learned that because I knew he had never been to a Pentecostal church. We talked for many hours and my sister Sandra said, “Michael, we feel like you are our son” and he said that he felt the same way so Sandra asked if we could pray for him and he said yes. We all got in a circle and began praying and he squeezed my hand so tight that it was hurting. We began praying and we said, “Lord, we want you to change Michael’s life and he prayed everything that we said. I know that he accepted the Lord.
Root: How long was this before he passed away.
Andrae Crouch: It was one week. God is so merciful. He had no problems with us praying with him and he had both of his hands up. There is no doubt in my mind that he did accept the Lord. We had the choir there and he would normally be isolated from everyone but this particular time he stood right in the middle of us all.
Root: Isn’t it amazing how God used you to reach someone like Michael Jackson?
Andrae Crouch: Yes it is. In fact I used to hear that most of the people who worked with him were Muslims but at the funeral he had a Pentecostal guy conduct the funeral. I actually set next to Quincy Jones and Gladys Knight. It still amazes me because at the rehearsal before he passed, he stood right there in the middle of us all and talked about the tour and how the stage was going to be built and what it would look like. But in the same breath he said, “I don’t wanna go on this tour, I just don’t feel right about it”. That’s what he said. He kinda knew that something was going on but he didn’t know what. I know he is with the Lord because he was so ready. When we did the song “Man in the mirror”, we would do a warm up song called “It won’t be long” and every time we got together he told me that he always would sing that song to himself and he asked if we could sing that song for him and I said “Sure”. He loved that song and he was so gentle and I praise God for the work that he did in his life before he went to be with the Lord.
Root: Amen. We are doing a documentary on the 50 Greatest Gospel Acts of All Time and without giving it away I will say that you are within the Top 5 percentile. Who are some of you favorites? Who influenced you?
Andrae Crouch: A lady by the name of Doris Akers who wrote the song “You can’t beat God giving”. She played at a white church and she looked white too. My dad told me to listen to her and he always said that she always gave people two chances to hear what she was singing. He said one thing he didn’t like with gospel singers was that they would be bigger if people just knew what they were saying but if you sang it twice, they would understand what you were saying. There are so many people who influenced myself, Walter Hawkins and Edwin. Rosetta Tharpe was another person who influenced me. My dad had her records.
Root: What are some of your favorite Andrae Crouch songs?
Andrae Crouch: All of them (Laughter). No…. that’s hard.
Root: That’s hard?
Andrae Crouch: Yeah
Root: Wow… OK, you don’t have to answer that one. Do you have an iPod?
Andrae Crouch: Yes, I do.
Root: You do? Nice.
Andrae Crouch: I have the little skinny one and the one before that. Why, do you want to send me something? (Laughter)
Root: LOL. What could I possibly send Andrae Crouch? What’s do you have on your iPod?
Andrae Crouch: I listen to music and events and people who touch my life….pastor’s that have been gracious to us in different countries. We pretty much try to keep up with everybody… Sandra is better at it than I am so thank God for a twin because she knows my heart and knows just what I want to say if I want to write someone. One thing about us is we don’t live like stars.. One thing I love doing is ministering to people and if you come to my house and you don’t know Jesus, we are going to get them (Laughter) I don’t ever want to think that someone came to my house and went to hell.
Root: That’s what you were commissioned to do.
Andrae Crouch: I remember Michael Jackson called me up when I was sick and he called me up and said “ Andrae when are you going to be well so we can make more history”. I told him that, “I will be OK”. He said we would get some dates together soon. One of my goals in life was to point him to Jesus and I knew he would get saved.
Root: And it seems like you did it. When it is all said and done, what do you want Andrae Crouch’s legacy to be?
Andraé Crouch: That I loved the Lord with all my heart. What’s greater than knowing him? Also, I love to praise and worship him. If I would want to be remembered for anything it would be that I love the Lord. I watched my parents give their life for the sake of the gospel. When I was younger they had a cleaning business and I watched them lead so many people to the Lord. My brother, sister and I would always bet to see how many minutes it would take for my father to ask people if they knew the Lord. We were always waiting for that “By the way, do you know the Lord?”
Root: That’s where you get it!
Andraé Crouch: Yeah it is. If you sit next to me on the airplane you better know that by the time we reach our destination, I would have asked you and witnessed to you about the Lord and probably prayed with you by the time we got off the plane. I’m a witness for the Lord.