REVIEWS

Faithful of Milton, NC cover art for Walk On Walker

“Walk On Walker” – Faithful of Milton, NC

“Walk On Walker”
Faithful (October 2023)
Facebook: Faithful of Milton, NC

Faithful of Milton, NC cover art  Walk On Walker

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Milton, North Carolina’s Faithful delivers a compelling message in their single “Walk On Walker,” produced by Antwon Timmons of Perfect Peace Music. Lead vocalist Danny Stewart encourages listeners to rise above negativity and gossip, drawing parallels to the unwarranted criticism faced by Jesus Christ.

While Faithful is rooted in traditional gospel, they could stride confidently down to a blues or soul festival with the music and message of “Walk On Walker” and leave a memorable impression.

Gina Lloyd "Set Me On Fire" cover art

“Set Me On Fire” – Gina Lloyd

“Set Me On Fire”
Gina Lloyd
Destiny Records (Dec. 19, 2023)
Facebook

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Gina Lloyd "Set Me On Fire" cover art

Gina Lloyd, psalmist and worship leader, recently dropped the single, “Set Me On Fire,” and it’s been making rounds on social media, even becoming the soundtrack for local and overseas dance challenges with its Afrobeat vibe.

The song unfolds with Gina’s invitation to the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit: “I feel you—your presence all around me / I want you to consume me / Consume me with your fire.” Yet, what’s striking is the juxtaposition of her light, occasionally airy vocals with the fiery imagery of the lyrics, especially by the time she proclaims, “I’m on fire!”

Lloyd is at home in the music industry, having sung backup for artists such as Josh Groban, Alicia Keys, and Melonie Daniels. She embraced her calling as a psalmist in 2006.

Overall, “Set Me On Fire” doesn’t quite deliver the intensity I expected from a song with that title, but that’s also what makes it worth a listen; it captivates in its own right. My sense is that a live worship setting gives “Set Me On Fire” adequate fuel to engulf the atmosphere.

NEWS

Gospel Heritage Worship & Arts Summit Returns in Durham, NC May 16-18

Durham, NC to host return of Gospel Heritage Worship & Arts Summit, May 16-18

Gospel Heritage Worship & Arts 2024 Summit flyer - Durham, NC

(DURHAM, NC) March 13, 2024 — The world-renowned Gospel Heritage Worship & Arts Summit will be returning after a brief hiatus at The River Church in Durham, NC May 16-18! This three-day intense gospel music industry bootcamp will provide aspiring gospel singers and musicians with the opportunity to learn from some of the industry’s leading professionals. Originally founded by industry veteran Dr. Teresa Hairston-Jackson, this year’s workshop will be hosted by Gospel Heritage President and 7x Stellar Award-winning gospel artist, VaShawn Mitchell. This year’s summit is sure to be an epic experience unlike any other year prior. 

This year’s special honorees include Dr. Judith McAllister, the group Men of Standard, and gospel music legend Pastor Shirley Caesar. Special guest speakers of the summit will also include Bishop William Murphy, Dr. Valerie Moore, and Bishop Ronald L. Godbee.  Other special guests include Gospel Heritage Vice President Dr. John Paul McGee, Anthony Brown, Tonya Baker, Meachum Clarke, Pastor Ruth Ann Wynter, and Todd Garlberth.

Pastor Shirley Caesar, also known as “The First Lady of Gospel Music”, has won 11 Grammy Awards, 14 Stellar Awards and 15 GMA Dove Awards throughout her career and currently has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She has also released +40 albums, participated in over sixteen compilations and three musicals.

Dr. Judith McAllister is one of the gospel music industry’s most renowned praise and worship leaders.  She has released four albums, Send Judah First, Raise the Praise, In His Presence: Live!, and Sound the Trumpet. She also served as the President of the International Music Department of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) from 2009 to 2021.

Men of Standard is probably one of the most notable male groups of the gospel industry with two Stellar Award wins to their credit for “Group Duo of the Year” and “Contemporary Group/Duo of the Year for “Feels Like Rain”.

When asked about the return of Gospel Heritage, Mitchell says, ”I’m so happy to be bringing back Gospel Heritage! Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m big on education and this workshop is the perfect opportunity to educate the next generation of worship leaders with impactful insights from the industry’s top heavy hitters.” He continues, “This summit is for pastors, ministry leaders, worship leaders, dancers, musicians, and general worshippers that would like to grow in God and in business. So I’ve curated a list of impactful leaders to help empower the attendees and honor examples of some of the leaders who have excelled.”

Stellar Award-winner Lucinda Moore will be recognized with her first BMI Award for her hit song, “Lord I Hear You” at this year’s BMI Trailblazers of Gospel Music Awards ceremony.

BMI to recognize Lucinda Moore’s “Lord I Hear You” as one of the standout songs of the year 

Lucinda Moore

(ATLANTA, GA) March 11, 2024 – Stellar Award-winner Lucinda Moore will be recognized with her first BMI Award for her hit song, “Lord I Hear You” at this year’s BMI Trailblazers of Gospel Music Awards ceremony. Having garnered +10 million streams and earning a #1 spot on the Media Base chart and #3 on Billboard, it is truly deserving of the prestigious honor.  The heartfelt and uplifting track has struck a chord with audiences and has solidified Moore’s reputation as a powerhouse in the music industry.

When asked about receiving the award, Moore says, “I have been a member of BMI since the early 2000s, and for the first time, I am honored that a song I wrote will be recognized as one of the top songs of the year!” She continues, “When I write songs, I write out of experience. The lyrics of this song was written in 2015 while laying in ICU. I had a cyst the size of a watermelon on my spine. The doctors did surgery and my heart stopped on the table. In my recovery, I began to pen the lyrics of this song and Grammy Award winner, Cedric Thompson co-wrote it with me. I am happy and overjoyed. Thank you, BMI!!!!” 

Moore is no stranger to the gospel music scene and many fans are feeling that she is finally receiving the recognition she deserves. Known for other hit songs including “Pressure into Praise”, she has shared the stage with industry veterans including this year’s “BMI Trailblazer of Gospel Music Honoree” Dorinda Clark Cole, VaShawn Mitchell, Dottie Peoples, John P. Kee, Deitrick Haddon, Jekalyn Carr and more!  However it was her time singing background for one of her music idols, the legendary Tramaine Hawkins, that truly put her on the map for the world to see. 

“Lord I Hear You” is the title track for her album that was released in June 2023 and is currently available on all streaming platforms.

INTERVIEWS

Image of Melvin Crispell, III - Photo Credit Chris Cavanaugh

A Conversation with Melvin Crispell, III: ‘There is no failure in God’

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Image of Melvin Crispell, III. Photo credit by Chris Cavanaugh.

Melvin Crispell, III has emerged in gospel music as a Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, and producer with fervor that resonates with the soul. 

Since winning the ninth season of BET’s Sunday Best in 2019, the 26 year-old’s musical journey has been one in which faith, resilience, and the joy of ministry intertwine. His late parents, Melvin Crispell, Jr. and Tunesha Crispell, were celebrated in the gospel industry as a composer and singer, respectively. His father worked with James Hall & Worship and Praise and wrote for Bishop Hezekiah Walker, among others. His mother was a lead vocalist with James Hall and a solo artist. Their only child was just a teenager when they passed less than two years apart. Crispell’s Sunday Best win became an instant springboard, launching him into a music career his beloved parents didn’t live to see, but are very much a part of. We delve into that later.

June marked the release of Crispell’s sophomore full-length project, No Failure, recorded live at Springhill Church in Garland, TX. The album’s first single, “Alright,” was nominated for a GMA Dove Award and the second single from the project, “God Is,” is up for a Grammy for Best Gospel Performance/Song. No Failure also gives the singer-songwriter his first executive producer credit alongside a team that includes producer D. Jamel Kimbrough, music director Elijah Goodwin, and contributions from KJ Scriven, Trinity Anderson, and Maverick City Music’s Chandler Moore.

GMF talked with Crispell by phone about No Failure as well as the passion and unwavering faith that define his gospel journey.

Let me start by congratulating you on your current Grammy nomination for “God Is.” This is your second Grammy nod. How does it feel to be recognized among your peers at that level?

It’s an unexplainable feeling to be able to be recognized on that level amongst so many other legends that are in the gospel music industry and in the secular world. Just to be recognized amongst everyone means the world to me and I still can’t believe it sometimes. 

“God Is” is from your project, No Failure, which is your second full-length album. 

Yes. My second album and my first live album. 

Melvin Crispell, III No Failure art work

Tell us about it and the growth you’ve seen in your musical journey between your first album (I’ve Got A Testimony) and this one. 

Yeah, so I really got to put my heart and soul into this one. And I got the opportunity to be an executive producer for this album. With that came a lot of hard work. I really got to see what all goes into when these artists would do live recordings. There are so many different moving parts to putting something together, and I really got to put my hands into the fire with this. I really spent a lot of long nights trying to figure things out, making sure things were right. Not striving for perfection, but for excellence. It was an amazing experience. And though it was a lot of hard work, it’s something that I definitely want to do again because I want to see how I can challenge myself to even do even more than what I’m doing now.

So No Failure is especially meaningful for you. (Smile)

This album is so special to me! Even the more being able to just be vulnerable with people and to create from my heart, and I can’t wait for the opportunity to do another album. Of course, I said that I did not want to do a live album at first. Now that I’ve done this one, I said, yeah, we need to do another one. I feel that we need to do another one. So it’s definitely an amazing experience and one that I won’t forget.

And the theme of No Failure revolves around the idea that there’s no failure in God, yes?

Absolutely.

What inspired you to bring this forward as the theme?

The inspiration behind that is while we were coming up with songs—we were trying to find two, and of course, we didn’t have the album title yet—God literally dropped two songs into my remembrance: “Here,” which is the first song on the album, and the title track, “No Failure.” And both of those songs were written in a writing session that was done by my church, Life Center Fellowship (in Charlotte) mere days before we had to be locked down for the pandemic. And so of course those songs were going to be recorded by my church; but due to the pandemic, we never got to record them and they were just sitting. And so God brought them back to my remembrance, and when we reviewed them and talked them over with the team, it all started flooding in like crazy like, this is the message that you want to relay to people on the Source of this whole album. 

And if you look at every song on this album, you can trace all of the stories back to the fact that there is no failure in God. We have to continue to trust in His plan because He hasn’t failed us yet. Things are not always the way that we want them to be, and we don’t have everything that we want, but God has given us everything that we need and he’s always taken care of us. 

Such an important message, especially coming out of the COVID pandemic. And to think that the songs were written just before the pandemic lockdown. 

Yes. Days prior.  

You know, it was just four years ago that you won Sunday Best. You’ve accomplished a lot in these few years. That experience had to have impacted you in ways you still reflect on.

That experience was unforgettable for me. It shaped my career in a way that’s given me confidence because I didn’t think I was qualified or even good enough to even make it past an audition for that show. That was just a mindset that I was in. It couldn’t be me to win something that big. And then when I got the call to be a part, I couldn’t believe it. And then from the moment I left my hometown, God had literally lined everything up in place.

Wait. You were not confident you would make the cut? That’s mind-boggling to me. How did you wind up auditioning? 

Sunday Best had been on hiatus. I had seen on social media that it was coming back for the ninth season, and I just kind of kept scrolling past it because, well, I used to want to [be a contestant on Sunday Best] when I was younger, but my parents would shun the very thought of it. (Laughs) I guess it’s because they were a part of the industry and they knew all it entailed, so they didn’t really want me to get thrown into it; so I kind of stopped watching it. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, as any kid would. But the show finally came [off hiatus] and a family member called me three times within a span of two weeks and said, “Hey, you need to audition for this show.” And then another family member came to me and said, “What have you got to lose? Just try.”  

It’s so interesting to hear that was your mindset because many of us who were sitting at home watching, the minute we saw you at the auditions, we were like, “Oh, he is going to win it.” It was a no-brainer for us.

You mentioned your parents, the late Melvin and Tunesha Crispell, and their industry presence. My gosh, they were celebrated figures in the gospel industry. And what I think is really precious is your intentionality about honoring their legacy in your music. What influence do you feel they continue to have on what you do? 

Yeah, it is definitely an honor to carry their legacy, and their legacy was not just music, but a legacy of love and spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to people through music and whatever other means it may have been. And so that’s what I love to keep alive, even though they’re not here any longer. Of course, you have your moments where you feel like you could be living in their shadow, but I just feel like I didn’t have enough time with them to where I could actually say that because they were my world and I was so always inspired. Even as a young child, I was always inspired watching them do what they did, whether it was apart or whether it was together. And saying that, I mean that there were so many different avenues that they took to do what they did. It inspired me to say, there’s not just one way to do this, and you don’t have to do it just one way. There’s so much music they have that hasn’t even been released and I used to be a part of that music. That music was in my blood. I used to hear it going to sleep and waking up in the morning and all that stuff. That stuff was always on my mind and on my heart. 

And so now that they’re gone … why not carry their legacy and carry that piece of me with me because it’s a part of who I am. I keep them close to my heart. 

On your first album, you remade your dad’s composition, “Wonderful Is Your Name.” It shot to the top of the Billboard Gospel chart and got you Grammy and Dove nominations. It was a bop when Bishop Walker and the Love Fellowship Crusade Choir recorded it in the late ‘90s, and you elevated it when you recorded it two decades later. Now, on No Failure, you’ve remade “Jesus Is My Help,” another of your dad’s compositions that Bishop Walker and Love Fellowship popularized. 

It was an incredible feeling. I wish they were here to see all that God is doing. Even with my mom, there’s music of hers that hasn’t been heard yet—well, at least from me—which will be coming soon.

Say more about that!

Well, there is new music coming sooner than you think! And I got some other things down the pipeline where I kind of venture out and do more than just music. So I’m excited about that. I don’t want to share too much! But yeah, it’s a lot of things happening for me and I’m just grateful to God for what He’s doing. Life is amazing right now.

I’m grateful for you guys and your love and support. It means the world. I ask that you pray to Jesus for me in the coming years, that He just gives me grace and longevity and strength. And I’ll do my best to create even more for you guys to inspire you and to give you hope, and to give you joy [so] that you feel loved and special. And I just thank you guys so much.

No Failure is available on all major digital platforms.

Michael Gentry co-founder of Just Love In Person and creator of Gospel In Person documentary

Director Michael Gentry discusses creating ‘Gospel In Person’ documentary

Michael Gentry, creator, producer, and director of Gospel In Person documentary

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Erin Ganey-Hill, cultural arts program director at Kirby Cultural Arts Complex, had an idea, recounts Michael Gentry.

Over the years, Erin had witnessed how the community celebrated Black gospel music and its singers in their small city of Roxboro (population, roughly 8,100) and throughout Person County. Several quartet-styled groups regularly booked the Kirby to host their singing anniversaries or major programs, and Erin and the Person County Arts Council envisioned a project that would pay homage to the valuable legacy of music and culture in the community.

“Erin’s goal was to talk about the history of gospel [music], but from the standpoint of quartets,” Michael explains. “She wanted to celebrate the history of that [in Person County] and [the impact its] singers had.”

The culminating result is a feature-length documentary titled Gospel In Person. It premieres on Father’s Day at the Kirby Theater. Michael is the film’s creator, producer, and director.

Map of NC with Person County highlighted
Image Credit | Amy Rudersdorf

Gospel In Person chronicles over eight decades of the rich Black gospel music history found in Person County, located in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, along Virginia’s border. Much of the history is told by the singers themselves, many of whom still travel the circuit singing God’s praises. In their vivid accounts, they also reminiscence about area legends who are no longer with us, such as Roosevelt Whitfield of the pioneering Silver Moon Quartet and his son, prolific singer and multi-instrumentalist Michael Whitfield; Martha Pettiford of the Joylettes; Leroy Cash of the Spiritual Lights; Victor Hester of another pioneering group, the Traveling Sextet; Willie Carrington of the Mighty Harmonaires; and many more. Additionally, the film features classic performances of the Mighty Gospel Travelers, Original True Lights, Spiritual Lights, Mighty Prophets, Joylettes, and others. And although they may not be household names beyond the region, their impact has created ripple effects throughout the broader gospel music scene, as their stories reveal.

Michael grew up in Person County and in church. Admittedly, he was more interested in playing basketball as a youngster than attending weekend gospel music programs. His parents, on the other hand, “know all about this music scene,” he asserts. “This is what they grew up in. Of course, as I grew in Christ and grew in ministry, as God had told me that my work would be in Person County, I developed an interest in wanting to get to know [some of these singers’ stories]. I just didn’t know that I would be called upon to do this.

The calling of which he speaks came about after Erin took notice of Just Love In Person, an organization Michael co-founded that is committed to strengthening Person County through acts of service powered by love. One way the organization does this is by sharing first-person narratives of people in the community with webisodes fittingly called “Just Love Stories.” The web series piqued Erin’s interest so much so that she jotted Markeith Gentry’s name down to contact about her idea. Markeith is the head of Gentry Visuals multimedia publishing company, the official publisher of Just Love In Person’s “Just Love Stories” series. He is also Michael’s younger brother. In the meantime, she ran it by fellow arts council board member Kim Hargrove. 

“So it just so happens that Erin asked Kim one day, ‘Hey, do you know Markeith Gentry? I need to find a way to get in touch with him,’” Michael recalls. What Erin did not know, he says, is Kim “is like my brother’s second mother.” 

It turns out Markeith’s schedule was full, but he had already been showing his big brother the ropes when it came to videography. Erin and Michael finally met in March 2022 and began developing the project.

The first Sunday in June, Michael visited New Hope Person Missionary Baptist Church in south-central Person County to invite its pastor to appear on “Just Love Stories.” “I went to the church—this is after I had met with Erin—and of course, who do I see? Dr. Libra Boyd. And that’s when I told you about this idea that the Kirby had. And you got on your phone, pulled up several pictures, and said, ‘Here are the people you have to contact. Here are some of the older groups.’”

One of the first people Michael contacted was David Ramsey, a renowned singer and bass guitarist who has been a member of several of the groups discussed in the Gospel In Person film. He is also a longtime radio personality and host of the David Ramsey Gospel Show on WRXO 1430 AM / WKRX 96.7 FM. “I started with David Ramsey, and he’s just a gold mine of knowledge.”

You’re going to
see a lot of things
that were not in
the stories we’ve
already [released]. . . .
We have not released
any information on
Facebook or in
these concerts about
maybe the most
talented gospel
singer in Person
County history.

Ambitiously, he went on to conduct interviews with more than 60 people for Gospel In Person and estimates working on the project an average of eight hours every day for just over one year. “But my soul was getting fed. My knowledge was being increased. So it was a labor of love—emphasis on love, not labor.” Still, the most demanding task may have been condensing nearly 100 hours of accumulated interview and archival footage into a suitable documentary length for one sitting. Gospel In Person runs approximately three hours and is divided into three parts. “From a quartet standpoint, you’re talking about probably 85 years of history.” 

And even though the film focuses on singers of the quartet style, both choirs and churches are acknowledged in this body of work because “all the quartets, for the most part, come directly from a church choir,” he points out. “They were in the choirs, even though they were singing full-time, you know, every weekend, all evening long. They were always in their churches on Sunday morning.”

Another eye-opener, one that blew him away as he collected stories and listened to audio and video recordings, was, “I believe all of these groups could have been professional. Traveling the country. Famous. And I think had these groups been in a larger city, they would have been. . . . You know, they weren’t just ‘Roxboro’ good. They weren’t just ‘North Carolina’ good. They were awesome. But not only that; they had relationships with professional groups. . . . ‘I’m coming through North Carolina. Can I come stay at your house?’ (laughs) The professionals knew them. Some of these singers were singing alongside professionals before they were professionals.” 

The Gospel In Person documentary rounds out the “Gospel In Person” series, which since the fall of 2022 has featured live concert performances of MG Music Group, the Torain Family, Just Us Guys, the Spiritual Lights, the Mighty Harmonaires, and John Thorpe and Truth. Concertgoers were treated to short documentaries spotlighting the headliners, but Michael is quick to emphasize that the full-length documentary is a new release and not a stringing together of the previously released short docs. “You’re going to see a lot of things that were not in the stories we’ve already [released]. . . . We have not released any information on Facebook or in these concerts about maybe the most talented gospel singer in Person County history.”

“Historic and monumental” is how the talented producer and director describes the significance of Gospel In Person; and yet, his prayers and hopes for it are profoundly humble.

“My prayer for [Gospel In Person] has been that it moves people spiritually because that’s [Just Love In Person’s] assignment; our assignment is to make a spiritual impact. I pray that it gets folks saved, revitalizes people, strengthens the spiritual work of quartets in Person County, and continues to strengthen the church community. I hope it encourages the active quartets to continue the work they’re doing and realize they’ve made an impact. And then my prayer is that people can know, understand, and appreciate what exists in our community. We have greatness all throughout. I hope people understand what is in these roots and see it as their responsibility to continue to feed these roots by producing more greatness. My main prayer is that God is glorified and the people are encouraged.

“I’m grateful that God called me to the work because it is, to me, it’s been the most important thing that I’ve really ever worked on.”

Flyer for Gospel In Person documentary film

Gospel In Person premieres Sunday, June 18, at Kirby Theater on 213 N. Main Street in Roxboro. Showtimes are 1 pm and 5:30 pm. Admission is FREE. GMF’s Libra Boyd appears in the film.

Editor’s Note: The group pictured on the graphic is The Mighty Gospel Travelers. Seated from left to right are the late Michael Whitfield, David Ramsey, and Stacey Pettiford. Standing from left to right are the late James Lunsford, Rev. McArthur Pettiford, the late Victor Hester, the late Burley Pettiford, and the late Freddie McGhee.

IN MEMORIAM

The Notable Career of Grammy-Winning Singer, Pastor Sandra Crouch (1942-2024)

Pastor Sandra Crouch passed away on March 17, 2024, at the age of 81.
Photo by Alonso Garcia

Sandra Crouch, Grammy® Award winning twin sister of gospel legend Andraé Crouch, and an artist in her own right, passed away on Sunday, March 17, 2024, at 12 PM PST at Northridge Hospital in Northridge, CA. She was 81. She died of complications from radiation for a non-cancerous brain lesion.

Crouch was an integral partner in her brother’s trailblazing career as the most popular crossover gospel artist of the 1970s and co-wrote one of his biggest hits, “Jesus is the Answer.” She was also a percussionist and/or vocal conductor on recordings by artists such as The Jackson 5, Madonna, Neil Diamond, and Janis Joplin. In the 1980s, Crouch stepped into the spotlight on her own with a trio of Grammy® Award-nominated albums that produced modern church standards such as “He’s Worthy,” “Completely Yes,” and “We Need To Hear From You.” Since 2015, she’s been the Senior Pastor of New Christ Memorial Church in San Fernando, CA. 

Sandra Elaine Crouch and her twin brother, Andraé Edward Crouch, were born on July 1, 1942, in Los Angeles, CA. Their parents, Benjamin E. and Catherine Crouch, owned two dry cleaning operations and a restaurant in Los Angeles. In the late 1940s, their parents sold their businesses to go into ministry. They packed up their eldest son, Benjamin Jr., and the twins, and moved to Verde, CA, where they eventually founded  Christ Memorial Church C.O.G.I.C. out of a garage in 1951.

While the twins were students at San Fernando Valley High School, they formed The COGICS circa 1960 with friends who were active in the Church of God in Christ C.O.G.I.C. denomination. Billy Preston, Gloria Jones, Blinky Sondra Williams, Frankie, and Edna Wright would all go on to have successful careers in the music industry. Their first recording was “It Will Never Lose Its Power” which was distributed by Vee Jay Records. After Preston left to tour with Ray Charles, the group disbanded. Andraé then formed Andraé Crouch & the Disciples while  Sandra worked as a percussionist in Hollywood. Among the notable recordings she played on were The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” Neil Diamond’s Tap Root Manuscript LP which featured “Cracklin’ Rosie,” and Janis Joplin’s Pearl LP which featured “Me and Bobby McGee.” She also played on projects by Gabor Szabo, Mongo Santamaria, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, and various Motown acts. 

By the 1970s, Sandra Crouch had rejoined her brother as a key member of Andraé Crouch and the Disciples. Aside from singing and playing with the group, she co-wrote songs with her brother. Among the biggest was “Jesus is the Answer,” which was a huge crossover hit on both white and black gospel radio stations. Over the years, it’s been covered by over 75 artists including Paul Simon, and Michael W. Smith. The group dominated the airwaves during the period with hits such as “Take Me Back,” “Soon and Very Soon,” “Through It All,” and “My Tribute (To God Be the Glory).” They performed on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Saturday Night Live, and at The White House during the Carter Administration.

In 1983, Sandra Crouch bankrolled, composed, and produced her first solo LP, We Sing Praises. It won a Grammy® Award and birthed the radio hits “He’s Worthy,”  “There is Power in the Blood,” and “We Need to Hear From You.” Its unexpected success helped save Light Records from financial bankruptcy. Her next set, We’re Waiting, appeared in 1985 and included the massive hit “Completely Yes” which was sung by church choirs nationwide. It earned three Grammy® Award nominations in 1989. Her final solo album, With All of My Heart, was released on Sparrow Records in the autumn of 1992. To promote the project, Crouch went on a concert tour, “Gospel: Good for the Soul,” with Daryl Coley and the Richard Smallwood Singers. 

Over the years, Andraé Crouch began to work on film soundtracks and always included Sandra. Quincy Jones tapped them to work on The Color Purple. They wrote “Heaven Belongs to You” for it and they sang “Maybe God Is Trying to Tell You Something” on the soundtrack. That led to other scores for the films The Lion King and Free Willy. In addition, the twins assembled choirs that backed artists such as Madonna on “Like A Prayer” and Diana Ross on “Force Behind the Power.” They backed Michael Jackson on “You Are Not Alone” and many of the songs on his History – Past, Present and Future Book 1 album. They also backed him on “Man in the Mirror” on the studio recording and when he performed it live at the 1988 Grammy® Awards.

The Sandra Crouch Singers backed Beyoncé, Common, and John Legend on the closing segment of the 57th annual Grammy® Awards in 2015 with a riveting medley of “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” and “Glory” from the Selma motion picture soundtrack. She also produced one of the few televised Grammy® gospel performances ever with Al Green as the star of the segment. It’s just one of innumerable achievements from Sandra Crouch’s illustrious career.

Sandra Crouch testifies at New Christ Memorial Church, San Fernando, CA circa 2005. (Photo by Robert Shanklin for Capital Entertainment)
Sandra Crouch testifies at New Christ Memorial Church, San Fernando, CA circa 2005. (Photo by Robert Shanklin for Capital Entertainment)

In 1998, Andraé Crouch, who assumed leadership of his parents’ church when his brother, Pastor Benjamin Crouch Jr. passed, defied the COGIC denomination’s policy against female preachers and ordained Sandra as a co-pastor. They renamed Christ Memorial COGIC as New Christ Memorial Church to signify a new era. Andraé Crouch passed away on January 8, 2015. Upon his death, Sandra Crouch assumed the role of senior pastor and had been active up until recently.

Updated April 3, 2024: A viewing for Pastor Sandra is scheduled for Tuesday, April 16, from 4 to 6 PM, with a musical tribute service to follow at 7 PM. The homegoing service takes place Wednesday, April 17, at 11 AM. Please note the venue has changed and all services will be held at Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, CA. The services will be streamed live:

Celebration of Life Concert – click here

Celebration of Life Homegoing Service – click here

El DeBarge, Donnie McClurkin, David and Nicole Binion, and Erica and Tina Campbell (Mary Mary) are among the confirmed artists and friends who will perform at Tuesday’s musical tribute.

Sandra Crouch flyer with funeral arrangements

From a media release

Kee Family Statement on the passing of Mother Lizzie Shannon Kee

Lizzie Shannon Kee, mother of John P. Kee, passes on

The Official Kee Family Statement on the passing of Mother Lizzie Shannon Kee

GMF extends its sincerest condolences to Pastor John P. Kee and the entire Kee family on the passing of Mother Lizzie Shannon Kee. The matriarch passed January 2, at the age of 97.

“Her hearts [sic] desire was for all of you to remember her for her beauty, her zest for learning and living life to the fullest. Always remember her voice, her smile, and the joys you brought to her life,” the Kee family shared in a statement.

A celebration of life service for Mother Kee took place Sunday, January 7, at New Life Fellowship in Charlotte, where her son pastors. A memorial service followed on Wednesday, January 10, at Durham’s Union Baptist Church.

Bishop Carlton Pearson, influential spiritual leader, dies

Bishop Carlton Pearson died November 19, 2023.

(November 19, 2023) Bishop Carlton D’Metrius Pearson, one of the most popular and influential preachers in America and around the world, who sacrificed everything for a message of unconditional love and acceptance by God, died peacefully the night of November 19, 2023, at the age of 70, after a brief battle with cancer that had returned after first defeating it 20 years ago. He was surrounded by his family.

Moving to Tulsa in 1971, to become a student at Oral Roberts University, Pearson was invited by Oral Roberts himself to join the World Action Singers on his nationally-aired TV specials, eventually becoming an associate evangelist with the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association in 1975.

In 1977, Pearson launched his own ministry, Higher Dimensions, Inc., traveling the country with a small ministry team. In 1981, with the help of his college roommate, Gary McIntosh, Carlton started Higher Dimensions Evangelistic Center, with 75 people attending its first service in Jenks, Oklahoma. Quickly outgrowing the small, storefront location in Jenks, Higher Dimensions eventually settled at 8621 South Memorial Drive in Tulsa, becoming an integrated, multi-ethnic, cross-cultural congregation of more than 5,000 members.

A national television program launched in the mid-1980s, “Everything’s Gonna Be All Right,” expanded Pearson’s outreach to a national and international audience, becoming at that time one of only two African American preachers with a nationwide television ministry.

His annual AZUSA Conference, started in 1988, became an international movement, giving national exposure to a number of preachers and gospel singers, bringing together believers of all denominations, cultures, races and walks of life. The annual conference attracted as many as 70,000 people to Tulsa each year, generating tens of millions of dollars to the Tulsa economy during the week-long conference, as well as smaller weekend conferences held across the country each year, such as Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia, San Jose, Tacoma, Buffalo and even Durban, South Africa.

His Live at AZUSA albums were nominated for multiple Dove and Stellar Awards, winning three Stellar Awards for Carlton Pearson Live at AZUSA 2: Precious Memories.

On the opening night of AZUSA ‘96, a group of pastors and bishops recognized his leadership by declaring him “a bishop in the Lord’s church.” The opening night of the following year’s conference, Bishop Pearson was officially consecrated in an ecclesiastical ceremony as the Presiding Bishop of the AZUSA Interdenominational Fellowship of Christian Churches and Ministries, establishing oversight of thousands of churches and ministries all over the world.

He gave counsel to multiple U.S. Presidents, as well as a number of international presidents, kings and other leaders, who were won over by his intelligence, charm, humor and kindness.

At the height of his popularity, Bishop Pearson had a shift in his theological beliefs, and began to preach that Jesus did not just die for and save Christians, but for all mankind, and that no one goes to hell as we’ve known it. This became known as “The Gospel of Inclusion,” a form of Christian theology known as universalism. This shift in belief caused churches, upon whose stages he once frequented, to close their doors to him, shut down his annual conference and caused his church to dwindle from thousands to only dozens.

His theological shift was dramatized in a major motion picture, Netflix’s Come Sunday, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave), Danny Glover (The Color Purple, Lethal Weapon), LaKeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah, Atlanta) and Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now, The West Wing).

Pearson’s message and example of unconditional love, though it gained him the moniker of “heretic” by some in the Christian church, had a whole new world opened to him as a result. Non-Christians, as well as Christians who had left the church as a result of church hurts, abuse, hypocrisy, etc., loved the new message of love, healing and restoration. He leaves a legacy of love through the multiplied thousands of lives he touched during his time on earth and the impartation of grace and mercy he preached and exhibited to everyone he encountered.

Public viewings begin Wednesday, November 29th, followed by celebration of life services in Tulsa on Thursday, November 30th and Friday, December 1st. An AZUSA Life Celebration service is set for December 18th in Atlanta. (The Atlanta service is free, but registration at www.azusacelebrationoflife.com is required for all in attendance.)

Information for each service is below.

Vernon Oliver Price singing

Homegoing celebrations set for Vernon Oliver Price

Homegoing celebrations start today for beloved gospel great, Vernon Oliver Price. Mother Price died on October 5, 2023. She was 93. 

In Price’s hometown of Chicago, a musical salute will be held this evening at the Greater Tabernacle Cathedral COGIC, with Pastor Angela Spivey as the host. Among those scheduled to pay tribute at the 7 p.m. service are Lemmie Battles, Pastor Derail Smith and the Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer Warriors, Dexter Walker and Zion Movement, LeAnne Faine, and Price’s sister and frequent singing partner, Mother Loretta Oliver. There will also be a public viewing from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m.

The final service takes place tomorrow at 10 a.m. at Abounding Life COGIC in Posen, IL, with a public viewing beginning at 9 a.m.

I met Mother Price several years ago in Chicago. She was just as delightful as I imagined. My experience was equally as memorable the last time we had an in-person conversation. I am one of many who will miss her, and I extend my prayers to her children, grandchildren, siblings, and the entire family.

Our friend Robert Marovich shares more about Mother Price’s life and ministry in The Journal of Gospel Music: RIP Pioneer Gospel Singer Vernon Oliver Price