By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — One of the finest pure singers in gospel or any other idiom passed over the weekend. The legendary Rance Allen died Saturday at 71. His cascading, magnificent voice turned such songs as “Ain’t No Need of Crying” and “I Belong To You” into crossover hits. He was a mentor, influence, and precursor to other gospel acts who attracted fans across genres like The Winans and Take 6.
Allen’s wife, Ellen Allen, and manager Toby Jackson announced in a joint statement that he had died while recovering from a “medical procedure” at Heartland ProMedica in Sylvania, Ohio. Allen was a longtime Toledo, Ohio resident and most recently bishop for Church of God in Christ for the Michigan Northwestern Harvest Jurisdiction.
A native of Monroe, Michigan, Allen was a singer, songwriter, and musician who formed his group with his brothers Tom and Steve. Another sibling, Esau, occasionally joined them. A promotion man for Stax Records heard them at a Detroit talent contest and eventually signed them to the label’s Gospel Truth imprint. Allen and his siblings were featured in the 1973 documentary “WattStax,” performing the funky “Lying On the Truth.”
The Allens were masters at using gospel sounds for secular themes. On “Just My Salvation,” they reworked The Temptations classic “Just My Imagination” into an uptempo hymn.
The Allens were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1998. Rance Allen was nominated as a solo vocalist for a Grammy in 2009 for best gospel performance for “I Understand,” which featured among others Mariah Carey and BeBe Winans. He sang at the White House with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama among those in attendance in 2015.
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