The gospel world is reeling from the death of legendary vocalist Rance Allen, award winning gospel vocalist, lead singer of the Rance Allen Group quartet; pastor of the New Bethel Church of God in Christ in Toledo and bishop for the Michigan Northwestern Harvest Jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ. “While recovering from a medical procedure at Heartland ProMedica [in Sylvania, OH], Bishop Rance Allen passed away around 3 AM this morning,” said Allen’s wife of 49 years, Ellen Allen, and his manager, Toby Jackson, in a joint statement. He was 71.
Credited with being the first traditional gospel group to incorporate rock, jazz, and soul into their music, the Grammy-nominated vocalist is known for such classic hits as “Miracle Worker”, “I Give Myself To You”, “Do Your Will,” “Closest Friend,” and “Something About The Name Jesus” which he recorded with Marvin Winans, John P. Kee, Isaac Carree and Kirk Franklin, who was in shock over the news.
“I just woke up to some of the worst news ever,” Franklin wrote on Instagram. “You guys remember that song God gave me several years ago called ‘Something About the Name Jesus?’ That had the incredible Rance Allen?” he asked in an Instagram video. “Man, we lost Rance Allen. I just wrote and produced his first single.”
“My whole gospel Male vocal #generation was students of this amazing #icon,” Fred Hammond posted. “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.”
But as Tosha Cobbs Leonard stated of Rance Allen in her post, “Your gift can never be duplicated!”
One of 12 children, Allen has been preaching and singing since he was five as “Little Rance Allen—the Boy Preacher”. He founded the group (including brothers Thomas and Steve) in the 60’s, scoring a Top 30 R&B hit in 1979 with “I Belong to You”. They began recording for Stax Records in 1971 where they made a string of gritty, R&B-flavored gospel and message songs for the Gospel Truth imprint. They toured with the big R&B artists of the day such as Isaac Hayes and Barry White. From there, the group recorded for a variety of labels, scoring their first #1 gospel album in 1991 with the “Phenomenon” CD featuring the crossover R&B smash, “Miracle Worker,” with Allen closed out the 1990s performing in a variety of gospel-oriented touring play productions
Their nearly six decades in gospel yielded over 20 albums including their first #1 gospel album, Phenomenon (1991), five Grammy nominations, induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and a performance for President Barack Obama at the White House in 2015.
“Bishop Allen’s unique vocal ministry was an indispensable sound within the Church of God in Christ and Christendom,” wrote Bishop Robert Rudolph in the COGIC’s official notice of transition. “His gift transcended the boundaries of musical genre as he remained a sought-after personality called to perform on global venues.”
Noting that the family would hold a private memorial, Rudolph added, “When the restrictions are lifted, a date will be set for a Jurisdictional memorial service that will appropriately recognize the godly life and notable achievements of Bishop Rance Allen.”