Interview with Andrae Crouch
Thanks to my good friend, Vincent Allen, for sharing this 1999 interview with us.
In August of 1999, I took my first trip ever to California to fulfill a dream that I've had for years; to meet my all time favorite Gospel Music artist, Andrae Crouch. This was not just a significant trip because of my dream, but it was also the first interview that I was to conduct for the radio show that I created, "The Take Me Back Music Show w/Vincent Allen." Who better for the first interviewee, than the "Take Me Back" man himself, Andrae Crouch.
Vincent Allen - First of all, I bring you greetings from Atlanta, the ATL. A member of my church told me to "Tell Andrae I said, 'hello'." Because of your records in our homes, we have a personal touch with you and feel we know you on a first name basis.
Andrae Crouch - Right.
VA- How many actual years are we talking about in music ministry now?
AC - We're going into 30 years.
VA - Part of those 30 years, it seems as if you didn't record for about 10 years, from 1984 to 1994.
AC - I did record, but with a lot of different artists. I did television, the "Amen" show and a lot of films. I produced and recorded with my sister on her albums. During that time, I lost my mother and that was one of the heavy things that affected me. There were a lot of groups overseas like, the Oslo Gospel Choir, out of Norway.
VA - Okay, there's the connection for the song, "Your Love" on the "Pray" album. (Pray, Qwest/Warner Records, 1997)
AC - Yes, exactly. They were recording some of my songs on their album, Scott Smith and I went over there and produced for them. I wrote several songs for that album, I guess 60 percent of the tunes for them. (Oslo Gospel Choir, "Get Up", Reunion Records, 1995)
VA - Now I've seen where you've toured in Europe, have you toured in the States in recent years?
AC - Yea, I've never stopped going different places around the country even now that I'm pastoring. When I'm in the States, I usually do one or two places for two nights but it's not anything that the general public would know about as far as outside of that community. In Europe, you can cover a lot of territory because everything is right close.
VA - Do you prefer that in place of a big tour these days?
AC - Well, anyone who has that "travel blood" in them, meeting new audiences and singing on stage, would like to be gone for a short amount of time and then come right back home. The energy of meeting new people is quite rewarding and ministering some of the new songs you've cut or some of the old songs make it fresh when you get to go out on occasion and not for a length of time; two or three weeks and gets to be grueling.
VA - I've wondered if for some Gospel artists if it just becomes "giggin" at some point?
AC - Not during the particular performance. But leading up to the performance that day, traveling, sound checks, radio interviews, the concert, meeting people afterwards and getting to bed at 1 or 2 a.m. all in one day, only to find you're waking up at 5 a.m. to travel to the next place and repeat the process.
VA - So when you tour now, do you do so with singers or alone?
AC - I very rarely go alone. I take 5 or 6 singers and a keyboard player and we'll also use music (track) backing, or we'll play with some local musicians that my music director would have worked with a little bit. I like to give other kids a chance to play.
VA - Let's go back to the early years of the Jesus Movement, selling records out of a van and playing for a "Love Offering..."
AC - I still do that! (laughs)
VA - What was the "younger Andrae Crouch" setting out to accomplish 30 years ago?
Original members of The Disciples
AC - Actually, when we talk about the 30 years, we're talking about before I even made a record, I was busy in "church work." I was nine years old when I got "Saved" and 11 years old when God gave me the gift of music. Not knowing what was even ahead because I didn't have any persons that I was following. I knew of Mahalia Jackson as a kid, but I didn't know of any groups to go and hear them play. I didn't know the "life" of a musician.
Early concert poster
As a kid, I'd heard of the Caravans, the Ward Singers, the Davis Sisters, and groups like that. But I didn't know what their lifestyle was until the Davis Sisters came to L. A. and their performance blew me away. But when I looked out in the front and saw they had traveled in a car, I asked my father, "All those people were in that one car and they came all the way from Philadelphia?" He answered, "It looks like it to me." So that didn't seem appealing to me!
I really didn't have anybody that I even thought I could follow because I didn't think that God had that in store for me. I was just a piano player and God gave me the gift to play the piano. But I never thought that I'd be writing songs and this would become a career, I was just having fun doing at what I was doing.
VA - So you really had no expectations..?
AC - …No expectations. When the first Grammy nomination came around, I didn't even know about the Grammy awards. After the release of "Take the Message Everywhere" on Light Records, I had a single out with United Artists, "Christian People." Tremaine Hawkins was on it, and it was nominated for a "Soul Gospel" category. I'd never heard of it, never new of the Grammy's nor what all this meant. We came from "the Valley" which is 30 miles outside of Los Angeles and we were sheltered from the "Big City" of L.A.
VA - So you were pretty "green" to the industry even after the first Disciples album?
AC - Oh yeah, I really was. When I wrote my first song, I wasn't even driving a car. (laughs) When I first wrote "the Blood" I was 14; I didn't even know what the song meant…(The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power, Take the Message Everywhere, Light Records, 1969)
VA - Oh, really!
AC - No, it just came. …Didn't know what it mean; wasn't driving a car; I was totally green to what was going on.
VA - And it (the Blood...) has meant so much to people all of these years.
AC - It's the Word, so it was really a prophetic message that lives on forever that, "the Blood Will Never Lose Its Power." Many songs came that way. Those early days were exciting and adventurous. Everything was new. Just like I don't know what God has in store for me, now. It's that same kind of excitement.
VA - You mentioned being isolated from the "Big City," and you were also raised in the "Church Of God in Christ," but your musical style has not been traditionally C.O.G.I.C. On the home front how had you been received in the early years and through the years regarding you musical style.
AC - When I first wrote, "The Blood…" and brought it to the kids to sing for the little choir in my dad's church, they said, "You didn't write that!" I said, "Yes, I did." So they didn't want to sing it. They were just kids that were jealous because they couldn't believe that I wrote that song and that people liked it.
So whenever I would get another idea for a song, I wouldn't tell them that I wrote it until after they liked it.
In high school I attended Youth for Christ which included different races and our leader was a white guy from the Nazarene church. They would ask me from time to time to sing a song, so I would sing something that I knew they would understand. Also, my mother's and father's backgrounds both included Jewish-German with mixed marriage (Afro-European) grandparents and great-grandparents so we would have extended family gatherings that was racially diverse. When my dad when would ask me to sing, I knew they wouldn't understand the C.O.G.I.C. style of singing. I wanted to reach my family and kids at school, so I would write my songs clearer so that they would understand the gospel instead of some of the vernacular that we use in church.
I brought some kids to church one time and they heard the singing and enjoyed it but latter asked, "What does, 'Midy-lone' mean." I had to explain to them that what was being sung was "the Lord bringing us from a, 'migh-ty long'" way". So I found that if they were going to be blessed by what I did, I had to tell a story to bring them along with me, because I didn't want to have to explain my songs, but that they would be self-explanatory.
VA - Now considering the non-traditional style of your music, some of the songs may still be considered, "out there," and I'm specifically thinking about "Lullaby of the Deceived." (Just Andrae, Light Records, 1972) Did you have to explain that one?!
AC - Oh yea! People said, "What is that?" I just said that I had to attack that which was trying to attack me. That was a result to some demonic oppression that I was experiencing after leading a guy to the Lord who was into satanic worship. Then on that same album the following song was the breakthrough of deliverance with "Bless the Lord, O My Soul." So we know that the satanic powers are real, now they're more sophisticated.
VA - How would you describe that "sophistication?"
AC - The sophistication is that he comes as "an angel of light" like the Word says. Satan knows that "I'm" aware of all that negative stuff, so now the devil come just like anybody else and talks like anybody else. You really have to discern through the Holy Spirit, who's who and what's what. It just brings the Scripture more to the front that the devil knows that you know he can act like that, so now he camouflages more.
VA - Do you think that's taking place in today's Christian/Gospel music?
AC - Big time. There are a lot of people that sing Gospel music and don't even know why they're doing it. People have to realize that their gifts are not their purpose. A lot of people think that if they're doing their gift if people are being "blessed" by their gift. I don't even pay attention to groups if I don't have a background on their church life.
When I signed to Light Records, before they even signed me up, they followed me for eight months without me knowing it. Record companies today will sign an artist just based on a video and don't know any testimony of these groups. Many of them need to be discipled. Certainly if a group is singing, they need to be able lead a person to Christ verbally, without a song. They should know the story of Jesus and where to find the scriptures to lead someone. I don't think people are equipped that way.
1978 Backstage Pass (Courtesy of Bill Hoppe)
VA - Are you up on any of the current Gospel artist of today?
AC - I really don't have time to keep up with new artists. Some of it's good, but a lot of it lacks "substance."
VA - (Andrae's response to Danniebelle's illness before her passing)
AC - …You wonder why things like that happen. But God knows. After all that she's given to the Kingdom of God, you just don't know. You just trust God that whatever happens He allows. We don't understand why. We can ask, but a lot of people believe that you shouldn't. But if He's my father, I can ask Him anything I want and He's not intimidated by question, nor does His opinion change of me for asking. A lot of people think that God's response to our asking is, "I get to kill you 'cause you asked a stupid question." But David was an honest person. But I'm sure that Danniebelle has questioned God, "what is this for?" But she is patient through the whole process. So that's very strengthening to us. She's a real woman of God.
Thanks to Andrae, his assistant, Marcia, and my wife, Peggie for making this meeting possible!