Bishop Rance Allen is the Gospel singer and founder of the Rance Allen Group who died on October 31 at 71. Allen was often referred to as “The Father of Contemporary Gospel Music.” During his illustrious career, Allen was the recipient of five Grammy Awards, once performed for President Barack Obama and recorded a song with Snoop Dogg.
Allen founded the Rance Allen Group along with his brothers, bass playing Steve and drummer Thomas, in their hometown of Monroe, Michigan, in 1969. His official website describes the group as beginning to “invade the world with a new contemporary and innovative gospel sound.”
Allen moved to Toledo, Ohio, in 1985 and was the pastor of New Bethel Church of God, according to the bio on the singer’s official website. In December 1970, Allen married evangelist Ellen Marie Groves. His official profile says that the couple had no children that “they share their love and support to many God-children.”
Allen’s death was confirmed in a statement from Bishop Robert G. Rudolph of the Church of God Is Christ in Memphis, Tennessee. The statement did not reveal Allen’s cause of death. The statement goes on to say that due to COVID restrictions, a private memorial service will be held for the singer.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Allen Thought it Was a ‘Joke’ When He Was Approached About Recording a Song With Snoop Dogg in 2018
Allen recorded the song “Blessed Me Again” with Snoop Dogg as part of the rapper’s 2018 gospel album Bible of Love. Allen told the Toledo Blade in 2008 that he thought someone was playing a joke on him when the rapper first reached out to him.
Allen said of performing with Snoop Dogg, “I’ve always believed that while I want the world to have Jesus. I’ve got to give them a little something that would prick their interest.” Allen also spoke of his belief that the Snoop Dogg collaboration would lead to his work being exposed to a larger audience. Allen said, “When Snoop says, ‘Hey fellas, Jesus saves,’ he’s going to shake their worlds.”
2. Ellen Marie Allen, the Bishop’s Wife, Called Him ‘The Sweetest, Most Humble, Patient, Loving, Giving Man This Side of Glory’
Allen’s wife Ellen Marie Allen nee Groves is referred to as the “First Lady” of the New Bethel Bountiful Blessings Ministries. According to Groves’ profile on the church’s website, she is a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was “introduced to the lord at an early age.”
Her profile goes on to say that she “met and fell in love” with Allen at the age of 16. The couple married with her father’s consent in December 1970. Prior to becoming fully involved with the church, the profile says that Groves worked in banking. In the bio, Groves refers to her husband as “the sweetest, most humble, patient, loving, giving man this side of glory.”
3. Allen Was Celebrated in Toledo, Ohio, as Part of Black History Month 2020
In February 2020, Allen was celebrated in Toledo as part of Black History Month, reported ABC13 at the time. As part of the celebrations, a wing of Imagine Madison School of Arts in the city was named for Allen.
Allen was quoted as saying, “I’ve been singing over 60 years and it’s all been as far as I was concerned a ministry. Then to get to be 71-years old and someone says we want to honor you, it made me want to put my suit on today. It’s a wonderful thing and I’m enjoying every bit of it.”
4. Allen Said in 2015 that He Could Not Find the Words to Describe the Honor of Performing for President Barack Obama
In April 2015, Allen performed for President Barack Obama and the first lady at the White House as part of a special event celebrating the history of Gospel music. Allen told The Monroe News in the lead-up to the performance, “I am so honored I can’t find the right words to describe it. I’m excited and a little bit nervous.” Allen appeared on the line-up alongside other legendary performers such as Aretha Franklin, Lyle Lovett and Emmylou Harris.
At the event, President Obama told the performers in a speech, “Songs were where their dreams took flight, where they expressed faith and love, as well as pain and fear and unimaginable loss.” While Aretha Franklin sid that the event was “absolutely wonderful.” Franklin added, “It warmed my heart to be back with other gospel singers I grew up with, like Shirley Caesar and Rance Allen,” according to Ebony magazine.
5. Allen Is Being Mourned as a Legend of Gospel Music on Twitter
As news of Allen’s death spreads, fellow performers as well as fans, have taken to Twitter to express their condolences. Here are some of the most poignant messages of remembrance: