Gospel singer Andrae Crouch doesn't consider himself a good singer - he says he just likes to communicate. Indeed, Crouch has communicated enough to become the most popular young gospel artist performing today. His latest album, "This Is Another Day" (Light LS-5683), has climbed to No. 2 on Billboard's gospel chart. He won a Grammy in 1976.
On Saturday night Crouch drew a crowd of about 2,000 to the 3,000-seat Constitution Hall. Largely young (18-30), the audience was a colorful ethnic mix - mostly white but containing liberal blocs of blacks and sprinklings of East Indians and Orientals.
There was alos a great mix of religious denominations.Crouch, black and a Church of Christ member, called the roll - Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Mennonite, Seventh Day Adventist, Catholic, Church of Christ, Holy Roller, and each group answered with loud roars.
What is the attraction of this Afro-American singer (age 30 by his count) for young people from a variety of religious faiths and ethnic backgrounds?
It may have something to do with his positive image - a congenial temperament marked by a quick smile and music that is always upbeat.
"I talk about God's life," Crouch, a handsome bear of a man at 5-feet-9 1/2, 210 pounds said in a pre-concert interview. "I don't get into that negative thing. When people pay their money, they want something positive."
His music, simple and direct, many times has the soothing melodies of a pop song rather than a hymn. It also can be fervent and raucous in the style of current disco music. His music is generations and cultural styles apart-from traditional gospel.
Crouch is a personality - not a musical stylist. His concert Saturday night was a neutral blend of pop, rock and gospel. Even his reassuring lyrics convey a bland mixture of love, salvation and the second coming.
The singer tailors his performances differently for black and white audiences. "I phrase things a little bit differently," he explains. "I may even sing Jesus differently. For blacks I put a little more emphasis on the first syllable. With my people I want to scream and get down.
Crouch, who grew up in Los Angeles and mostly taught himself music, has been performing since he was a teen-ager. At one time his group included Billy Preston, who went on to pop music fame.
Crouch's first popularity came in the mid-'60s - with followers of the Jesus movement and "charismatic" revial, both conservative in their religious and social beliefs. He says he had no problem in balancing his own social ideas with his fans. "I'm not a heavy lyricist," says the performer. "I write simple things."
Blacks didn't discover Crouch until the early '70s, but they're still out-numbered by white followers.
Now Crouch wants to keep broadening his audience. He has plans to tour Africa soon. On a recent tour of Europe, he found that his records were being smuggled into the Soviet Union and played at discos.
"They said it was easier to play my music in discos than at church," explained Crouch. "I don't care - as long as my message is getting over."