LOS ANGELES (AP) — Andrae Crouch, a legendary gospel performer, songwriter and choir director whose work graced songs by Michael Jackson and Madonna and movies such as The Lion King, has died. He was 72.
Crouch died Thursday afternoon at Northridge Hospital Medical Center, where he had been admitted after suffering a heart attack, said his publicist, Brian Mayes.
The Recording Academy, which awarded seven Grammys to Crouch during a career that spanned more than a half-century, said in a statement that he was “a remarkable musician and legendary figure” who was “fiercely devoted to evolving the sound of contemporary, urban gospel music.”
Crouch and his twin sister, Sandra Crouch, also a singer, lived in the Pacoima area of Los Angeles. They were pastors at the New Christ Memorial Church in the Los Angeles suburb of San Fernando.
“Today my twin brother, womb-mate and best friend went home to be with the Lord,” said Pastor Sandra Crouch. “I tried to keep him here but God loved him best.’”
Born in San Francisco, Crouch wrote his first gospel tune at age 14.
Crouch wrote dozens of songs, including gospel favorites such as The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power, My Tribute (To God Be the Glory) and Soon and Very Soon, which was sung at a public memorial to Jackson.
Debuting in 1960, Crouch helped pioneer the burgeoning “Jesus Music” movement from the late 1960s and ’70s that started the spread of contemporary Christian music.
“We’ve lost a true pioneer and he will be missed,” said Jason Crabb, another Grammy-winning gospel singer.
His influence also crossed over into in pop music. Elvis Presley performed his song I’ve Got Confidence for a 1972 gospel album, and Paul Simon’ recorded Jesus Is the Answer for a 1974 live album.
Crouch worked with many other stars, from Diana Ross to Ringo Starr, and his gospel albums sometimes featured performers from other musical genres. His 18th solo album, The Journey, released in 2011, featured Chaka Khan, Shelia E., Take 6, Kim Burrell and Marvin Winans.
Crouch was one of only a handful of gospel performers to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
His choir, The Disciples, sang background for Madonna’s song Like a Prayer. Crouch helped Michael Jackson arrange the King of Pop’s 1987 hit song, Man in the Mirror.
He also arranged music for the 1985 film The Color Purple — which earned him an Academy Award nomination — and Disney’s The Lion King in 1994.
His success came despite a lifelong struggle with dyslexia. To create, he would make drawings that allowed him to grasp the concept. For the Jackson song, he drew a mirror with an image in it.
“I memorized everything through sight, the shape of the word,” Crouch told The Associated Press in 2011. “Some things that I write, you’ll see a page with cartoon pictures or a drawing of a car — like a Ford — or a flag. I still do it on an occasion when a word is strange to me.”
“So when I finish a song, I thank God for bringing me through,”’ he continued. “You have to press on and know your calling. That’s what I’ve been doing for all my life. I just went forward.”