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Rev. James Cleveland

The visionary behind the contemporary gospel sound, the Rev. James Cleveland, was a pioneering composer and choral director whose progressive arrangements -- jazzy and soulful, complete with odd time signatures -- helped push the music past the confines of the traditional Baptist hymnal into new and unexpected directions, infusing elements of the sanctified church style and secular pop to alter the face of gospel forever. Born in Chicago on December 5, 1932, Cleveland was a boy soprano at Pilgrim Baptist Church, the home of minister of music Thomas A. Dorsey; as his parents were unable to afford a piano, he crafted a makeshift keyboard out of a windowsill, somehow learning to play without ever producing an actual note. When his voice changed, becoming gruff and harsh, Cleveland continued singing, developing into an expressive crooner; for the most part, however, he focused on piano, becoming a top-notch accompanist.

In 1950, Cleveland signed on as a pianist and occasional third lead with the Gospelaires, a trio led by Norsalus McKissick and Bessie Folk; although the group was short-lived, it brought him to the attention of pianist Roberta Martin, for whom he began composing. Even his earliest material 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, almost unrecognizable from their usual interpretations. By the mid-'50s, Cleveland was a member of the Caravans, not only playing piano but also narrating hymns in his rough yet relaxing voice; despite the group's success, however, he kept quitting and rejoining their ranks, earning a reputation as a highly temperamental character. He also played briefly with groups including the Meditation Singers and the Gospel All-Stars; in 1959, he also cut a rendition of Ray Charles' "Hallelujah I Love Her So," his first overt attempt to bridge gospel and R&B.

Although Cleveland kept drifting from group to group, his reputation continued to grow -- with the Gospel Chimes, he cut a series of records which veered sharply from pop-inflected ballads to fiery shouters, arranging harmonies which straddled the line between the current group style and the rapidly developing choir sound. By 1960, he was clearly well ahead of the pack; "The Love of God," a cover of a Soul Stirrers number he cut with the Detroit choir the Voices of Tabernacle, was a breakthrough hit, his fusion of pop balladry and choir spirit finally reaching its apotheosis. After years of struggle, Cleveland was now a major star, and across the country, choir directors began mimicking his style; he soon signed to Savoy, where he recorded with the All-Stars and Chimes as well as his own group, the Cleveland Singers, which featured on organ a young Billy Preston. His third Savoy LP, 1962's live Peace Be Still, made history, selling an astonishing 800,000 copies to an almost exclusively black audience without the benefit of mainstream promotion.

The success of Peace Be Still established Cleveland as arguably the most crucial figure to emerge in gospel since Mahalia Jackson; throughout the '60s, when hit status for spiritual records typically reflected sales of five thousand copies, his LPs regularly sold five times that amount. Additionally, his annual Gospel Singers Workshop Convention -- an outgrowth of his organization the Gospel Workshop of America -- helped launch the careers of numerous younger talents, a generation of artists largely inspired by the modernized sound pioneered by Cleveland himself. During the '70s, he remained a towering figure, leading his latest creation, the Southern California Community Choir, and recording prolifically; although his pace began to slow in the decade that followed -- and despite his death on February 9, 1991 -- Cleveland's shadow continues to loom large across the gospel landscape. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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Noboby.....i mean...not a single solitary.... . s o u l . . . . t o l d me. THE ROAD WAS GOING TO BE EASY......YE T . . . w i t h JESUS IT GETS. "Sweeter!!!! "
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poohbearl97
JAMES Cleveland
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Only God can judge. Despite his imperfection , he continues to inspire me and a whole lot of others that believe in and feel the holy spirit. Amen.
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mixbreed602
My favorite gospel artist
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I have grown up off him....my God, our God has not forgotten, believe in his WORD.. He sends his musical angels to INSPIRE... Rev. James Cleveland was one of many. PRAISE The LORD
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bettyc021539
Love his songs uplifting Peace Be Still one of my favorite
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Yes I do believe
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theharmon25
Rev james Cleveland.
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magnificent music
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I DONT BELIEVE HE BROUGHT ME THIS FAR!!!!!
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Learn this!YOUNG PEOPLE...... . . . . . i n less than a next 45 minutes. Parts of Jefferson co. Alabama. According to recent. Weather Alerts,shall experience(d e p e n d i n g on wind & tempeture varaition.)
Wintery-mix. Causing hazardous road travel conditions. Please drive , and or, dress accordingly.
BE AWARE. SHOW CARE. PREPARE.
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One of my mommy's favorites! I grew up listening to his records. I miss u mommy! I know you are enjoying the Angels chorus.
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God is good
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yes Lord...aman
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Think you for Lord Jesus Christ for be here will me
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ALL I CAN SAY IS THANK YOU JESUS CHRIST BECAUSE YOU HAVE MADE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL OUT OF F MY LIFE AND I AM SO HAPPY AMEN
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YES YES YES I SERVE A MIGHTY GOOD GOOD GOD......... . . . . . . . . . Y O U CAN TOO������
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Having to admit.
Sometimes i do feel tired.
That's. When i need your sincere,earn e s t , c o n c e r n e d , o n - g o i n g
prayers.
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we-to-pray-f o r - o u r - b l a c k - m a l e - t e l l - t o - p r a y - t o - g o d - h a v e - t h e r - i r - b a c k
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thak-u-for-t h i s - g o s p e l - m u i s i c - i t - j u i s t - w h a t
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Old gospel music love it
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WE ALL FALL SHORT CHRIST DONT BUT YOU AN I DO BUT CHRIST CAUSE CHRIST IS ALL KNOWING ALL CARE AND ALL FOR GIVING ITS.SO GOOD TO KNOW . l love the lord. THE BEE.
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If Satan is trying to bring me down all I have to do is say get thee behind me an play me some Reverend James Cleveland/Ma h i l j a Jackson. Then everything is all right
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I don't. Care what anybody say about u God Sent u to worship to us thank so much, i remember as a child meeting u going to your funeral u was always nice to my family
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Diane His music is so uplifting. Thank u Jesus. Pray for the n this world n our President n his family. God Bless
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This remind me of my grandmother. . luv it..
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This is best of all the music ever I love a
Man who loves the Lord
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Yes I have faith in you O...LORD JESUS. ...! PLEASE PRAY FOR ME. ..!
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Thank you for Jesus. .......my Lord......!
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I love it to! !!!!!!!!!!!! !
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True gospel music
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An amazing song with a glorious message delivered with a powerful voice!
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1 of my favorites gospel singers in the river James Cleveland I can listen to him from now until the day I die Thank God for someone like him who could really sing the gospel
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There is something about walking with Jesus TRUE INDEED!!! The peace that surpasses all understandin g ! ! Thank you Jesus for NEVER leaving me ALTHOUGH many many times I have gone astray. The road hasn't been easy, but I know one thing for sure you haven't allowed me to come this far to leave me. I have a calling on my life Lord and I will not stop until I fulfill what you have called me to do. Lord, I will follow you all the days of my life REGARDLESS of the struggles and pitfalls I have a race t
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deadseefossi l e s
A Prophet of God, yet A PEDOPHILE of SATAN.
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Praise God!
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Thank you lord
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My sister died almost 6months ago and before and during her battle with cancer she constantly praised GOD. REV. James Cleveland helped her get through some painful days but she kept her faith in GOD and though losing a loved one never gets easy it helps to ease the pain knowing that she loved/believ e d in the ALMIGHTY
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GET CLOSER TO GOD RIGHT NOW......
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If you know real gospel music this is a true Icon at 37 years old I truly appreciates the foundation he laid
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Rev. James Cleve?land, I can remember as a child my mom and dad listening & loving the REV. Gospel Music (l am now 62 yrs old, & I
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Thank you
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Man of GOD is gone but his music is forever
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A true man of God
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Only God can change things around for the better
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Praise the Lord Peace Be Still in Jesus Name Amen
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peggydavis20
Beautiful
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Alice D. so encouraging and uplifting. Truly inspiring.
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I don't usually listen to music at work. I want to praise the Lord always.
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I'm not working. More bills then money. I still have my faith in God!
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