Gospel icon Rance Allen has died at the age of 71 in a Sylvania, Ohio hospital. A joint statement by his widow Ellen Marie Groves, and his manager Toby Jackson, stated he had been recovering from back surgery before he succumbed on Saturday, Oct. 31.

As a guitarist, pianist and especially a vocalist, Rance Allen is credited with updating the genre by infusing it with the style of secular Black music, in a reversal of the process in which Ray Charles and others imposed sacred music upon Rhythm and Blues in an earlier generation. In doing so, Allen laid out a blueprint for modern Christian music, and paved the path for best seller Amy Grant and others.

Born Nov. 19, 1948, the native of Monroe, Mich. was one of 11 siblings.

Along with younger brother, Steve (bass) and and their older brother, Tom (drums), he formed the Rance Allen Group in the 1970s, with Rance serving as lead singer (another brother, Esau occasionally filled in on percussion). Along the way they were nominated for five Grammy awards and inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1998.

Hits included “I Belong to You,” “I Understand “ and “There’s Gonna be a Showdown.”

Allen collaborated with songbird Mariah Carey, gospel impresario Kirk Franklin, rapper Snoop Dogg and singer–songwriter Candi Staton, among others.

Aside from his musical achievements, Allen also served as pastor of Toledo’s New Bethel Church since 1985.

In light of the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions on public gatherings, a private memorial service will be held for the family.

For more on this titan of contemporary gospel, go to the Rance Allen Group website at https://theranceallengroup.com/index.php.