This one hurts.
On Saturday morning came the news that Bishop Rance Allen, the legendary gospel singer and minister who gave us “Something About the Name of James” and could sing circles around every single last one of your favorites, had transitioned. He was 71.
On The Rance Allen Group’s Facebook page, Ellen Allen, Allen’s wife of 49 years and his manager, Toby Jackson, provided details on Allen’s passing.
“While recovering from a medical procedure at Heartland ProMedica [in Sylvania, OH], Bishop Rance Allen passed away around 3 AM this morning,” the two said in a joint statement.
Once news began to circulate of Allen’s transition, the gospel community took to social media to pay their condolences and celebrate the life of the Stellar Award-winning minister who had given us all so much.
“God, who is omnipotent and omniscient, has summoned His Servant, Bishop Rance Lee Allen, to eternal rest,” said Bishop Robert G. Rudolph Jr. of the Church of God in Christ in a statement.“Bishop Allen was a world-renowned gospel artist and affectionately known as the ‘Father of Contemporary Gospel Music.’ Bishop Allen’s unique vocal ministry was an indispensable sound within the Church Of God In Christ and Christendom. His gift transcended the boundaries of musical genre as he remained a sought after personality called to perform on global venues.”
Kirk Franklin, a long time friend and collaborator of Allen’s, delivered a tearful video on Instagram in which he tried to make sense of a year filled with such profound loss.
“I just woke up to some of the worst news ever,” he began. “You guys remember that song God gave me several years ago called ‘Something About The Name [of] Jesus?’ That had the incredible Rance Allen? Man, we lost Rance Allen. I just got a call that we lost Rance Allen. I just did his first single. I just wrote and produced his first single. […] We were just trying to figure out how to get him down here or I was going to go to Detroit. We just lost Rance Allen.”
Gospel artist Fred Hammond also took to Instagram to shower Allen with gratitude for his contributions to gospel music.
“My whole gospel Male vocal #generation was students of this amazing #icon,” he wrote. “We all wanted to sing like rance. #marvinwinans @keetwit, #commissioned and countless others. Almost every single song I’ve sung has a moment where I’ve put his flavor in. 💯💯. I couldn’t stop trying to sound like him if I tried.”
Other entertainers from both the gospel and secular realms who paid their respects include Charlie Wilson, John P. Kee, Lalah Hathaway, Yolanda Adams and Snoop Dogg.
“I had the pleasure of working with one of the greatest vocalists in gospel history,” Snoop wrote on Instagram. “And all he wanted to do was be on a song and video with me god thank u for allowing Me the opportunity to fellowship with one of your angels 🙏🏾. C u when I get. There Rev👊🏾😢. 🌹.”
Aside from being a gifted vocalist, the Monroe, Mich., native was a talented songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who also played the keyboard and guitar. After forming The Rance Allen Group in 1969, Allen would go on to record over 20 albums and serve as a precursor to other legendary gospel groups such as The Winans and Kirk Franklin and The Family. He was also incredibly successful, collecting five Grammy nominations and being inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1998.
He would later serve as pastor at the New Bethel Church of God in Christ in Toledo, Ohio, before eventually becoming a bishop.
No date has been announced for his memorial service, but it will be private and adhere to strict COVID-19 restrictions.
Again, I can’t put it to words how devastating of a loss this is to the gospel community. Rest in power, Rance.