Gospel music legend Andraé Crouch has touched millions of lives with his gospel songs, including “The Blood,” “Soon and Very Soon,” “My Tribute” and “Through It All.” He has won nine Grammy awards and in 2004 became the third gospel artist to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, joining Mahalia Jackson and James Cleveland. A Christian since age 9, he started his first group at age 18 and founded Andraé Crouch & the Disciples at age 23. Into his fourth decade of gospel music, Crouch, who never married, has devoted his life to ministry. He now also serves as pastor at the New Christ Memorial Church of God in Christ in San Fernando, Calif., the church founded by his parents. During the Metro Maryland 2006 Festival With Franklin Graham, Crouch spoke with Decision about his life, ministry and his love for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Q: Tell us about your growing up years.
A: I grew up in the metropolitan area of Los Angeles where there were mostly black businesses. I had one older brother, Benjamin, and my twin sister, Sandra. My mother and father each had a dry cleaning business. They were soul winners and God was always first. They prayed about everything, and they taught us the Scripture, “In all thy ways, acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:6, KJV). If they had a piece of furniture they wanted to buy, we’d see them go into a corner of the store and we’d say, “There they go.” They’d be asking God, “Should we buy this?” And they would come back and tell the salesman, “We’re going to check someplace else.” And when they’d go someplace else, they’d get it for half the price.
When people would come to my father’s cleaners, if it were a new client bringing in clothes, we knew before the conversation was over that we would hear my father say, “By the way, have you ever met Jesus Christ?” My parents loved to be in the presence of God, and they worked in the church. My uncle, Bishop Crouch, was pastor.
Q: How old were you when you started playing the piano, and how did that come about?
A: I was 11 years old when God gave me the gift. I loved music but had never played. We were Church of God in Christ, and there was a church about 60 miles away that belonged to the denomination, but did not have a preacher. A lady who knew my father’s excitement for the Lord invited him to speak at this church, although he was never behind the pulpit. When we finally arrived, there were five people, no piano player and no choir. The next Sunday when we went back, a piano was sitting there. “Come up here, Andraé,” my father said. I remember so vividly saying to myself, “What does he want with me?”
My father looked down at me and said, “Andraé, if God gave you the gift of music, would you use it for His glory all your life?” And I said, “Yeah, Daddy.” So he laid his hands on my head and said, “Father, this boy loves You and if You want me to stay here and preach and give up my business, will You please give him the gift of music?”
The next day, my mother bought me a cardboard keyboard. There was no sound, but I started playing, just hitting the keys as if I could hear something. The third Sunday that we were at this church, my father said, “Come up here, Andraé.” And he told me to sit down at the piano, and he started telling me about the pedals. “When they start singing, you just play,” he said.
So they started singing, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” and I could hear the musical sounds in my ears. I did the bass, then started hitting every note until I found out what the tune was. Then I started playing with both hands. And my father knew then that he was destined to preach, and that was the beginning of his ministry.
Q: And at age 14, you wrote, “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power.”
A: We were going to a guy’s house for Memorial Day. When we got there, Sandra, Billy Preston and I knocked on the door and nobody answered. We finally just opened the door and went on in. Everybody was in the backyard barbecuing, and we were too shy to tell them that we were there. We went in the pantry and we saw a grand piano, and I could see through the window that some of these people were recording artists. So we were looking at them, knowing we couldn’t go out there, and I said to God: “I sure wish You’d give me a song. I’ll always love You and serve You, but I sure wish I could write a song.”
Then I saw one of the guys take a big old pot full of barbecue sauce and pour it over the ribs on the grill. And then everything went in slow motion for me. I saw this picture of Jesus going up a hill and people were following Him, like guards. Then I heard them nailing His hands; they laid Him on the ground. I went into the living room and started playing something on the piano. Then I asked Billy to play it. While he was playing, I started singing, “The blood that Jesus shed for me.” That was five minutes after I prayed, and I wrote down the entire song and we sang it.
Q: You’ve written some powerful songs. The first line in “through it all” is “I’ve had many tears and sorrows, I’ve had questions for tomorrow.” What were your tears and sorrows when you wrote that song?
A: I was born with dyslexia, and when you stutter and have dyslexia … I left a lot of things to my sister to say for me. So I would set myself apart from a lot of things and a lot of people. I would go somewhere only if somebody knew my sister. Otherwise, I would stay home and work on the piano.
But you know, I understand now that God was letting me be in a place where I understood what loneliness was. We were very isolated. When my father got into the ministry, the only vacation we took was going with him for a revival or something. So when I said, “I’ve had many tears and sorrows,” that was letting people know they can think what they want, but the real deal is that I felt isolated and I didn’t have many friends.
Q: Your music has transcended racial and cultural lines. Did that ever create problems for you?
A: Once, we were scheduled to sing in Atlanta. When we got there, we noticed that on the poster advertising the concert, our picture was more like a silhouette. It really was hard to tell if we were black or white. So when we got up on stage, every single person in the front two rows got up and started to walk out. But we started singing, “Where Would I Be If Jesus Didn’t Love Me?” and about 20 of those people turned around and came back and sat down. Many of them are some of my closest friends today.
Q: How do you make sure that in your ministry God, and not Andraé Crouch, gets the credit?
A: I can do nothing; that I have come to accept. Everything that I have could be gone, just like that. I say to the Lord, “How can You use this voice? It’s hoarse all the time.” And then people come up to me and tell me I have a soothing voice. Wow.
Q: What has been the highest point of your ministry?
A: When people say, “I got saved in your ministry,” and they tell me a story of what my music has done for them. My father and mother taught my sister and me to just be normal. It’s not show business to us. When God wants to use us, we say, “Really?” God gets us excited over the little things.
Q: What have been some of your low points?
A: The lowest day of my life was when my mother died. Her cancer was in remission for five years. And then one night she just died. You know, we talk about heaven and sing about heaven and all that, but it’s still very hard when you lose people who are close to you.
Q: There was a report years ago that you were involved in drugs. Was that true?
A: It was soup–called the Cambridge Diet Soup. I had wanted to lose weight so badly, and some friends were selling this Cambridge Diet stuff. It was something like chicken noodle soup. My cousin picked me up at the airport and I had opened this chicken noodle soup. When I got into the car, the shopping bag fell and all of this stuff was on the floor. So it looked like I could have been a drug dealer. They locked me up, but I was out within five minutes. Every radio station I turned on was carrying the story. Four days later, the newspaper printed a retraction.
Q: Many people in the public eye fall in the face of temptation. How have you kept yourself clean before God?
A: Nobody is pretty enough for me to lose what God gave me. I know that the only inspiration I have is in His presence. If I ever thought that I was going to mess up like that, He could just kill me, just take me off this planet.
Q: What is your favorite Andraé Crouch song?
A: Some of my favorite songs are the ones I write that nobody pays much attention to. I have a little song that says, “I love walking with You, I love walking with You. You can take me any place You want to cause I love walking with You. I love talking with You. I love talking with You because everything You tell me, Lord, is always true. That’s why I love talking with You.”
Q: Describe your relationship with God.
A: If you used old people’s terms I would say “dear.” I feel safe with Him, because He’s got me in a place that erases all the hurt that I’ve felt. I just love walking with Him.