Rance Lee Allen (1948-2020)

Rance Allen Album Cover
Rance Allen Album Cover
Copyright held by the record label or the artist. (Fair use)

Gospel musician, lyricist, and composer Bishop Rance Lee Allen was born on November 20, 1948, in Monroe, Michigan, to Thomas Allen from Nash County, North Carolina, and Emma Pearl Allen McKinney Mendez from Wiggins, Mississippi. Rance had six sisters, Anita Marie Allen Rocker, Judy Rocker, Annie Ford, Cecilia Chapman, Teresa Mendez, and Linda Mendez, and five brothers, Thomas Allen, Esau Allen, Manuel Mendez, and Andre Mendez.

Allen began piano studies at the age of nine, and by the time he was 12, he was already preaching the gospel and had become a licensed minister. In 1968, Allen graduated from Monroe High School. Afterward, he enrolled in Monroe County Community College. In 1969, he and his brothers Thomas, a percussionist, and Steve, a bassist, established The Rance Allen Group. The following year, on December 1, 1970, Allen married Ellen Marie Groves from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In 1971, Allen and his brothers participated in a talent show in Detroit and won a $500 prize. This victory caught the attention of a Stax Records promoter, and a contract was signed with that record label. Their first single, “Just My Salvation,'” was a gospel cover of The Temptations’ “It was Just My Imagination.” In 1972, Stax produced their group’s hit, “Ain’t No Need in Crying,'” which rose to No. 61 on the R&B chart and remained an all-time Top 5 favorite soul song. The hit led to a milestone in their career when they were showcased in the 1973 documentary WattStax, where they performed “Lying on the Truth.”

In 1978, Allen was ordained as an Elder and began serving as the Associate Pastor of Holiness Temple Church of God in Christ (COGIC) in Monroe. The following year, the group released the hit, “I Belong to You,’ produced by Stax, which reached the Billboard R&B Singles Top 30 chart peaking at No. 24. In 1985, Allen was installed in the New Bethel Church in Toledo, Ohio. Later that year, his ensemble recorded the album, I Give Myself to You, which rose to No. 5 on the Billboard Top Gospel Albums chart. In 1992, the group peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart for the first time with the album Phenomenon.

In 2011, Allen was consecrated a bishop in the Church of God in Christ. He also received an Honorary Doctor of Divinity from the Urban Bible Institute of Detroit and was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri, after earning five Grammy Award nominations.

In 2015, Allen performed at the White House during the Obama Administration, where he sang “I Stood on the Banks of Jordan.” Also, that year, the trio debuted at No. 7 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart with their 25th album, Live From San Francisco. In 2018, Allen performed on Snoop Dogg’s Top 10 Billboard Gospel Digital Songs album with “Blessing Me Again.”

The Rance Allen Group released I’m So Glad It’s Christmas on all digital music platforms on October 30, 2020. Bishop Rance Allen died the next day, October 31, 2020, in Sylvania, Ohio. He was 71. In 2023, Allen’s classic, “Something About the Name Jesus,” was certified gold with 500,000 sales by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

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