Rev James Edward Cleveland


Rev James Edward Cleveland Famous memorial

Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Death 9 Feb 1991 (aged 59)
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Inglewood, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Alta Mesa Garden Mausoleum, Crypt #77
Memorial ID 9900 View Source

Gospel Musician. He was a well-respected Gospel musician, performer, producer, pioneering composer, choral director and founder of the Gospel Music Workshop of America, Inc. (GMWA). Rev. James Cleveland was known by such titles as "King James" and the "Crown Prince," he emerged as a giant of the post war Gospel music scene. His music arrangements-jazzy and soulful, complete with odd time signatures-push the music past the confines of the traditional Baptist hymnal into unexpected directions, infusing elements of the sanctified church style to alter the face of gospel forever. With a vocal style similar to jazz great Louis Armstrong, Cleveland is credited for the architectual design of contemporary Gospel music with top Gospel choirs and for bridging the gap between traditional Gospel, Gospel Quartets and today's Gospel music. Born in Chicago, Illinois on Dec. 5, 1931, Cleveland was first introduced to gospel music early in his life by his grandmother. Cleveland was a boy soprano at Chicago's Pilgrim Baptist Church, the home of the called "Father of Gospel Music" Thomas A. Dorsey who was a great influence on the young singer and who wrote a song for Cleveland that launched his long career in the gospel world. His parents were unable to afford a piano, so a young Cleveland crafted a makeshift keyboard windowsill, somehow learning to play without ever producing an actual note. Also influenced and inspired by the piano style of Gospel Singer Roberta Martin, he began to study the piano attending Roosevelt University. He later moved to New York where he became Minister of Music at Faith Temple. At the begining of his career, he sang with such groups as the Caravans and the Gospelaires, among others. After leaving New York, Cleveland then moved to Philadelphia and in 1951 was signed on as a pianist and occasional third lead with the Gospelaires, a trio that cut several sides for the Apollo label, although the group was short-lived, it brought him to the attention of pianist Roberta Martin, for whom Cleveland beagan composing. Even his earliest works reflects a bluesy, funkified style well ahead of its time, while his arrangements of traditional spirituals like "Old Time Religion" and "It's Me O Lord" were highly stylized, differed from there usual interpertations. Cleveland then moved to Detroit, Michigan where he became Minister of Music for Rev. C. L. Franklin at New Bethel Baptist Church. As a member of Caravans during the 1950's, Cleveland not only played piano but also narrated hymns in his rough yet relaxing voice; despite the success, however, he kept quiting and rejoining their ranks, earning a reputation as a temperamental character. By the mid-50's, his original compositions had found their way into the repertoires of numerous Gospel groups, and he was performing with such artists as the Thorn Gospel Singers, Mahalia Jackson (SEE ALSO), the Gospel All Stars, and the Meditation Singers. Following several other moves Cleveland relocated once more to Detroit where the famous Voices of Deliverence were born. Cleveland eventually settled in Los Angeles, California and in 1960 he formed the Cleveland Singers, featuring organist and accompanist Billy Preston, who would later become an R&B legend. The smash hit "The Love of God," with the Voices of Tabernacle of Detroit, won Cleveland nationwide fame within the Gospel community. Signing with the savoy label, Cleveland and keyboardist Billy Preston released a long list of classic albums, including Christ is the Answer and Peace Be Still with the Angelic Choir of Nutley, New Jersey. Many feel that the 1962's live album Peace Be Still which made history selling an astonishing 800,000 album's to an almost exclusively black audience without the benefit of mainstream promotion, Cleveland had started the "traditional Black choir sound." During the sixties, Cleveland became a minister, later founding the Cornerstone Instittutional Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Cleveland soon became the most prolific and one of the most gifted composers of his generation, and that earned him the title "Crown Prince of Gospel." His style was influential among Gospel figures, particularly Aretha Franklin and Jessy Dixon. In 1968 Cleveland had a dream. He gathered a small circle of gifted writers, singers and instrumentalists in Philadelphia in hopes of nuturing young talent and furthering the development of the music he loved and devoted his life to. This became the Gospel Music Workshop of America which flourished into a nationwide reality with nearly 30,000 members in 150 chapters across America and abroad today. During the 1970's, he remained a towering figure, leading his latest creation, the Southern California Community Choir, and recording prolifically. In 1972, Cleveland reunited with former piano understudy Aretha franklin, who featured Cleveland as a guest on the album Amazing Grace, the biggest selling Gospel album of all time. Although the commercial trends of the 1980's had caused a down turn in Cleveland's career, he continued to perform the gutsy blues-based sound that brought him recognition from listeners throughout the world. Throughout his career Cleveland won many awards, including five Grammies, a NAACP Image Award, and an honorary degree from Temple Baptist College. Rev. James Cleveland died Feb. 9, 1991 in Culver City, California. The 1991 Grammy for the recording Having Church, recorded with the Southern California Community Choir, was awarded posthumously following his death.

Bio by: Curtis Jackson

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 8 Jun 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 9900
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Rev James Edward Cleveland (5 Dec 1931–9 Feb 1991), Find a Grave Memorial ID 9900, citing Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .