Gospel Throwback: Andrae Crouch, “Perfect Peace”

Part three of The Gospel Throwback, a three-part series examining the emergence of contemporary Gospel music.

Andrae Crouch & The Disciples, 

“Perfect Peace”

This Is Another Day, Light Records (1976)

There are certain songs that not only embody a particular idea, but also capture for the listener the spirit of its time. So when most of us think of classic 70s disco-funk, our minds often drift to Curtis Mayfield, Sly & The Family Stone, Earth Wind & Fire, or similar artists. But my mind immediately goes first to this song, the blistering opener from his classic recording, This Is Another Day.

It’s a bit of stretch for me to call this a song from my era, since I was born the year this song was released and didn’t come to appreciate it until I was seven or eight. But given that my parents had the good sense to play edifying music around the house instead of songs like “Lady Marmalade” and “It’s Raining Men,” I learned how to groove and shimmy to this one instead.

And man, I’m glad they did.

Andrae Crouch, eight-time Grammy award-winning artist and gospel music pioneer

One of the things that I love about this song is the use of sonorous contrast. When the intro comes in, sounding all smooth and dangerous and Shaft-like (come on, you know I wasn’t sheltered my whole life), the whole groove is rooted in C# minor, and as all of the wah-wah guitars and percolating percussion and cascading horns come to a crescendo, the melody kicks in – not in its relative major of E, but up a whole step to F# major.

What results (for those of you turned off by the music theory geek speak) is a sense of unexpected discovery that underscores the title. In the middle of a furious musical maelstrom, the melody lands softly onto a pleasant musical bed, like a baby sleeping soundly in the eye of a hurricane. And as the melody winds its way through the chord progression, the musical cues lend a sense of depth and pathos by reinforcing its meaning.

And considering its meaning, it’s no wonder this song was released in 1976. This was the same era of classics like Stevie Wonder’s Songs In the Key of Life and Steely Dan’s Aja. This was a tumultuous time in American history. The Cold War was beginning to thaw. The OPEC oil embargo had a crippling effect on the economy. The war in Vietnam had been raging for years, and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” had become a rallying cry for a generation of disenfranchised people tired of systemic inequity and senseless violence. There was turmoil abroad and turmoil at home.

(Not all that different from now, is it?)

When Andrae and his singers echoed the words of Isaiah 26:3You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You – it wasn’t just a pleasant sentiment to be displayed on someone’s desk or refrigerator door. They were fiercely proclaiming Jesus’ promise to supernaturally uphold his children in the midst of life-threatening storms.

So for me as an adult, “Perfect Peace” is no longer just an exercise in nostalgia or an instructive in how to craft a funky tune, though it surely works as both. For me, it’s a reminder to trust God and don an essential piece of His full armor, one that allows me to walk freely in His plans, despite my fear of the unknown. I can put on my headphones and, for at least a few minutes, relax, knowing that God’s got this whole future thing on lock.

So break out your afro wigs and your platform shoes, and then crank up your speakers this classic gospel throwback. You can get it on Amazon MP3 here, and don’t forget to check out this incredible Norwegian cover here.

About the author, Jelani Greenidge

Jelani Greenidge is an UrbanFaith columnist based in Portland, Oregon. A writer and musician, he blogs at JelaniGreenidge.com.