History of Hymns: “Soon and Very Soon”

by C Michael Hawn

"Soon and Very Soon"
by Andraé Crouch,
The United Methodist Hymnal, No. 706

 

Andraé Crouch

“[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4.

A giant in gospel music has died. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of Andraé Crouch (July 1, 1942 – January 8, 2015) in the gospel music field during the last fifty years. Few have had such a sustained level of accomplishment and recognition in gospel music — seven Grammys, six Dove awards, an Oscar nomination, induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1998, and much more. He was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2004.

The United Methodist Hymnal contains three of Crouch’s songs, “My Tribute” (No. 99), “Through It All” (No. 507), and “Soon and Very Soon” (No. 706). The Faith We Sing includes his well-known “Bless His Holy Name” (No. 2015). Together, these provide only the slimmest selection of his more than 350 songs on more than twenty albums. His 40th anniversary album, Mighty Wind, was released in 2006; and his most recent album, Live in Los Angeles, was released in 2013.

Andraé Crouch’s career also extended beyond the gospel song field. He received an Academy Award nomination for his compositions and arrangements for the film The Color Purple (1985). He was the arranger and choral conductor for The Lion King (1994). He worked with artists such as Diana Ross and Ringo Starr. He sang background with Madonna and arranged songs for Michael Jackson. Elvis Presley, Paul Simon, and Madonna recorded his songs.

“Soon and very soon” (1978) is an appropriate song by which to remember him. It is based on Revelation 21:3-4: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.   >He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’” (KJV)

While it does not appear in many hymnals, a bridge between the stanzas reveals that though the hymn text is pointed toward heaven, the composer acknowledged our earthly struggles: there are “rivers we must cross” and “mountains we must climb”, but “God will supply the strength we need . . . till we reach the other side.” For the complete text see www.lyricsmania.com. A performance of this song by the composer may  be viewed at http://youtu.be.

The influence of “Soon and very soon” is evident in the 28 hymnals in which it appears since its 1978 composition (according to www.hymnary.org). The song was sung by a gospel choir for the public memorial service as Michael Jackson's casket entered the Staples Center in Los Angeles (July 7, 2009). Australian artist Brooke Fraser composed a different song soon after her wedding that seems to have been heavily inspired by the Rev. Crouch’s composition,  and she recorded it with Hillsong’s band United in 2009. Her text begins, “Soon and very soon my King is coming. . . .”

Though a transcript of the speech from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute does not include the opening line of the song, it is interesting to note that David Oyelowo, the British actor who plays Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the film Selma (2014), cites the phrase “soon and very soon” in the excerpt of the speech “How Long, Not Long” (also known as “Our God Is Marching On”) given by King at the Alabama Capitol on March 25, 1965. While the phrase works well in the movie, its citation in the movie appears to be cinematic license since Dr. King’s speech was given thirteen years before the Rev. Crouch wrote his song. If indeed Dr. King speaks this phrase in one of his speeches, it could be a potentially interesting connection between the Civil Rights leader and this song.

Born with a twin sister Sandra in Los Angeles, Andraé Crouch grew up in a church founded by his father, Benjamin Crouch, who was in the cleaning business as he pastored Christ Memorial Church, a Church of God in Christ (COGIC) congregation. It was in this congregation that Andraé began to sing and formed his first singing group, the COGICS (Church of God in Christ Singers) in 1960. The COGICS recorded his first song, “The Blood Will Never Lose It’s Power” (available in the United Methodist African American Supplement, Songs of Zion, No. 184), a song that continues to be one of his most popular compositions.

In 1965, Crouch founded the Disciples singing group and, upon the advice of Christian composer Ralph Carmichael, began to record his compositions in 1969. From 1965-1985, Andraé Crouch and the Disciples performed in numerous venues such as The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, the Hollywood Bowl, and Carnegie Hall. Andraé Crouch and the Disciples toured more than seventy countries. The songs contained in our hymnals come from this period.

The Rev. Crouch’s ministry in song has had an appeal across racial groups. Married to an Anglo woman, his cross-racial family roots have affected his music: “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 were racially diverse. When my dad 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.”

Andraé Crouch with Jesse Jackson

Andraé Crouch served with his twin sister Sandra as pastor at the New Christ Memorial Church of God in Christ in Pacoima, California, the congregation founded by his parents, New Christ Memorial.  His mother, his father, and then his brother all passed away in quick succession, placing the burden of continuing the church built by the Crouch family on him. In an interview with GospelCity.com (2002), Crouch notes, “I thought that if I took up the mantle of pastor I wouldn’t be able to make music my first priority…. But God just pointed out to me that He had given me everything I had and that He wasn’t about to take anything away. I slowly came to understand that He was adding to my life and ministry, and the music was as much a part of both as it had ever been.”

According to The Associated Press article (January 8, 2015), he struggled with dyslexia throughout his life, and health issues plagued the Rev. Crouch in recent years, including diabetes and cancer. He was forced to cancel a concert tour in December 2014 and was hospitalized for pneumonia and congestive heart failure on January 3. He died of a heart attack. Accolades have come from many, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson who stated on a Twitter feed, “Andrae Crouch, a friend and source of worldwide inspiration, served his time well. I miss him already.” With his posting, the Rev. Jackson included a picture of himself and the Rev. Crouch some decades ago.

 

 

C. Michael Hawn is University Distinguished Professor of Church Music, Perkins School of Theology, SMU.

Categories: History of Hymns