Cleveland, James

Cleveland, James, 1931–91, African-American gospel singer, composer, and arranger, b. Chicago. Known as the King of Gospel, he was renowned for his rough baritone voice. He revolutionized gospel music by adding elements of jazz, pop, blues, and funk. As a youngster, he was influenced by singing in Thomas Dorsey's choir. Cleveland played the piano for gospel groups (1956–60), was a church organist, and became famous for his choral arrangements. Beginning in the 1950s he composed more than 500 gospel songs, many now perennial favorites. Moving to Detroit, he was in charge of music for Rev. C. L. Franklin and taught Aretha Franklin, the pastor's daughter, to sing gospel; in 1972 he produced her Grammy-winning album Amazing Grace. Cleveland later moved to California, where he was both a pastor and musician.

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