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Rev. James Cleveland

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Today we celebrate – The King of Gospel – Rev. James Cleveland…Here’s a brief bio:

Reverend Dr. James Edward Cleveland (December 5, 1931 – February 9, 1991) was a gospel singer, musician, and composer. Known as the King of Gospel music, Cleveland was a driving force behind the creation of the modern gospel sound by incorporating traditional black gospelmodern soulpop, and jazz in arrangements for mass choirs. Throughout his career, Cleveland appeared on hundreds of recordings, won 4 Grammy Awards, and received a star along the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 1950, Cleveland joined The Gospelaires, a trio led by Norsalus McKissick and Bessie Folk. His arrangements modernized such traditional standards as “(Give Me That) Old Time Religion” and “It’s Me O Lord”. After the trio disbanded, an associate of the group, Roberta Martin, hired him as a composer and arranger.

The Caravans

Cleveland subsequently went to work for Albertina Walker, popularly referred to as the “Queen of Gospel” and The Caravans as a composer, arranger, pianist, and occasional singer/narrator. In November 1954, Albertina Walker provided him the opportunity to do his very first recording. By staying out of the studio for a while, she convinced States Records to allow him to record with her group. He continued to record with The Caravans until States closed down in 1957.

Throughout this period, he recorded with other groups like The Gospel All-Stars and The Gospel Chimes, mixing pop ballad influences with traditional shouting.

In 1959, he recorded a version of Ray Charles‘ hit, “Hallelujah I Love Her So”, as a solo artist.

Savoy Records

James Cleveland signed with Records in 1962, going on to release a huge catalog of black gospel recordings, many of which were recorded in a live concert setting


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