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History of Hymns: "My Tribute"

"My Tribute"
Andraé Crouch
The United Methodist Hymnal, No. 99

Andraé Crouch

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of Andraé Crouch (b. 1945) in the gospel music field during the last 40 years. Perhaps no other person has had such a sustained level of accomplishment and recognition -- at least seven Grammys, three Dove awards, an Oscar nomination, induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1998, and many more.

The UM Hymnal contains three of Mr. Crouch's songs -- "My Tribute," "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 30 albums. His 40th-anniversary album, Mighty Wind, was released in 2006.

Born with a twin sister in Los Angeles, he 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 congregation. It was in this church 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 Its Power" (available in Songs of Zion, No. 184), a song that continues to be one of his most popular compositions.

In 1965, Mr. 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, Mr. Crouch and the Disciples performed in numerous venues, such as The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall. The Disciples toured 68 countries. The songs contained in our hymnals come from this period.

Mr. 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. 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 COGIC 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."

It is this approach that is apparent in "To God Be the Glory," composed in 1971. The UM Hymnal contains only the powerful refrain. An opening stanza, often sung by a soloist, prepares for the refrain with a personal statement of gratitude.

Lovers of gospel songs will appreciate the allusion to Fanny Crosby's hymn, "To God Be the Glory" (UM Hymnal, No. 98). Crosby's hymn is written almost totally in the third person -- quite unusual for gospel songs. Mr. Crouch's version is in the first person, an expression of personal gratitude.

Musicians have long expressed gratitude to God for the gift of their music. J.S. Bach (1685-1750) signed many of his compositions, Soli Deo Gloria (or S.D.G.) -- for the glory of God alone.

Also common in gospel songs is the theme of redemption of humanity through the blood of Christ. This has been a theme of Mr. Crouch's music from the beginning with his first song, "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power." It is a theme repeated in "My Tribute." As the author notes, "With his blood he has saved me; with his power he has raised me."

Mr. Crouch now serves with his sister, Sandra, as pastor at the New Christ Memorial Church of God in Christ in Pacoima, Calif., the congregation founded by his parents. 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), Mr. 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."

Even as a pastor, Mr. Crouch continues to write some of his best music: "To God be the glory!"

Dr. Hawn is director of the sacred music program at Perkins School of Theology.

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