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