|This biographical article relies on references to primary sources. (May 2011)|
|Birth name||Crystal Lynn Lewis|
|Also known as||Crystal Lewis Ray|
September 11, 1969 |
Corona, California, U.S.
|Genres||Contemporary Christian, Gospel|
|Occupations||Singer, songwriter, author|
|Labels||Frontline, Metro 1 Music, Myrrh, Interscope|
|Associated acts||Wild Blue Yonder, The Screamin' Rays|
Lewis, born in Corona, California, grew up singing in her father's church. In 1984, at the age of 15, Lewis auditioned for a children's musical called Hi Tops, written and produced by Ernie and Debbie Rettino, creators of Psalty, the Singing Song Book. Lewis passed the audition and was able to go into the studio and participate in the Soundtrack recording with the rest of the cast members. While working with the musical, Lewis met a member of the rockabilly band, The Lifters. After becoming friends with the members of that band, Lewis was asked to join. Soon after, the band changed its name to Wild Blue Yonder. Lewis also met her husband, Brian Ray, through her association with the band.
Wild Blue Yonder was together for two years and recorded a single full length album Wild Blue Yonder, produced by Daniel Amos frontman Terry Scott Taylor, for Frontline Records in 1986. She would also sing on D.A.'s album Fearful Symmetry in 1986, and Taylor's solo album A Briefing for the Ascent in 1987. After Wild Blue Yonder disbanded, Frontline offered Lewis a solo recording contract at the age of 17. Beyond The Charade, her first solo project, was released in 1987.
Metro 1 and television appearances: 1992–1995
Lewis went on to record three more albums for Frontline, Joy in 1988, Let Love In in 1990, and her first greatest hits project Simply The Best in 1991, before starting her own record label, Metro 1 Music in 1992 with a distribution deal through Diamante Music Group.
In 1992, Lewis joined the original cast of the Nickelodeon sketch comedy series, Roundhouse (for which she helped originate the theme song). After season one, she left the show to pursue her music career.
Her next solo project, Remember, was recorded and released on Metro 1 label in 1992, followed by The Bride in 1993, and Hymns: My Life in 1995. The Bride was listed at No. 97 in the 2001 book, CCM Presents: The 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music. Her second greatest hits collection released that year landed Lewis in the No. 1 spot on the Pop/Dance charts with her rendition of "Shine Jesus Shine."
Rise to fame and commercial success: 1996–2000
Beauty for Ashes was released in 1996, the first album from Metro 1 Music to be distributed through a new arrangement with Myrrh Records. Ashes was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, and the song "People Get Ready...Jesus Is Comin'" was the No. 1 song of the year (1996) in Christian Radio. The album also won an ASCAP award for "Beauty For Ashes" as the most played song (1997). The album contained four No. 1 radio singles: "People get ready...Jesus is Comin' ", "Beauty of the Cross", "God's been good to me", and "Beauty for Ashes". That same year, Lewis and Yolanda Adams recorded "This Too Shall Pass" as a duet for the compilation album Sisters: The Story Goes On.
Gold was released in 1998 and gave Lewis two No. 1 hits, "Lord, I Believe in You" and "Not the Same". Gold and Beauty for Ashes have collectively sold nearly 1,000,000 copies to date. Lewis wrote a companion devotional to go along with the Gold album entitled Gold: A Devotional. The devotional revolves around Lewis' personal experiences and thoughts in relation to the songs found on Gold. Gold was later re-issued that same year with a new recording of "Lean on Me" (lead vocals by Crystal Lewis), which originally appeared on Kirk Franklin's album The Nu Nation Project and featured Lewis, Mary J. Blige, R. Kelly and Bono of U2. That same year, Lewis won Dove Awards for "Female Vocalist of the Year" and "Spanish Language Album of the Year" for La Belleza de la Cruz. She also received a Grammy nomination for "Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group" for her contribution to "Lean on Me". Lewis joined Franklin along with Gerald Levert, Mary J. Blige, and Bono on stage at the 1999 Grammy Awards for a performance of "Lean on Me". Lewis also performed "Lean on Me" (solo performance) along with Kirk Franklin at the 1999 Essence Awards.
Lewis returned to her Rockabilly roots briefly in 1999 by joining long time friends/musicians Gene Eugene and Chris Brigandi (among others) to release The Attack of the Screamin' Rays. The live project Live @ The Woodlands, recorded live in Houston, Texas on November 6, 1998, was also released that year. In 1999 she was also featured in a song on The O.C. Supertones' album, Chase the Sun. Lewis picked up two more Dove awards in 1999 for "Special Event Album" for her contribution to the project Exodus, and "Spanish Language Album" for Oro. Shortly after her contribution to the recording of "Lean on Me" and the subsequent 1999 Grammy performance, Interscope Records offered Lewis an opportunity to release a secular pop effort. Lewis eventually turned down the offer and in 2000, she released Fearless, which was nominated for "Best Christian Pop Album of the Year" at the 2000 Grammy Awards. The song "Only Fools" from that album was voted song of the year by ASCAP. Her first Christmas album, Holiday! A Collection of Christmas Classics, which was recorded with the Peter Erskine Trio, went on to be voted the 5th Best Christmas album of all-time by CCM Magazine Also that year, Lewis was cast as Mary in the Christmas musical "Child of the Promise". She also recorded several songs for the soundtrack portion of the musical, including the duet "I Will Not Be Silent" with Donna Summer.
Other projects: 2001–present
A second live project, More Live, recorded at the Sun Theater in her hometown of Anaheim, California on November 17, 2001, was released in 2002—along with another collection of hymns and gospel standards, Holy, Holy, Holy. Also in 2002, Lewis was invited to perform the National Anthem on Opening Day for the New York Mets at Shea Stadium. Other high-profile performances that year included a Washington Luncheon where she performed "America the Beautiful" and "When God's People Pray". She also performed in an event at Carnegie Hall called "A Night of Encouragement" to benefit victims and rescue workers from 9/11. Lewis also recorded the song "The Blood Song" with Donnie McClurkin & Jaci Velasquez for Kirk Franklin's The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin project.
See was released in 2005, and, a children's project, Joyful Noise (Songs For Kids!) was released in 2006. That same year, Lewis recorded the Andrae Crouch-penned "We Give You Glory" for Crouch's Mighty Wind project. The Christmas EP Peace on Earth was released exclusively through iTunes in 2009. Lewis' second Christmas project Home for the Holidays was released the following year. Plain and Simple was released on June 7, 2011. The following year, Lewis, along with Angie Stone & Yolanda Adams, paid tribute to Whitney Houston at the 2012 Dove Awards by performing Houston's songs "Hold On, Help is on the Way" & "I Go to the Rock". That same year, Lewis recorded the song "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" with Michael English for English's project Some People Change, a song originally recorded by Aretha Franklin and George Michael.
Several artists have cited Lewis as a musical influence, including Katy Perry, Stacie Orrico, Jordin Sparks, Tori Kelly, pop singer Hoku, R&B artist Nikki Leonti (of Nikki & Rich), and Lincoln Brewster.
Lewis lives in northwestern Montana with husband Brian, with whom she has two children. Her daughter, Izzi Ray, is also a singer/songwriter and released her self-titled debut album on February 12, 2012, followed by her Remixes EP on October 22, 2013. Her son, Solomon Ray, is also pursuing a career in music having recently[when?] wrapped production on his mother's new release Plain and Simple.
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