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James Cleveland


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James Cleveland was born in December 1932 in Chicago, Illinois. When he was a toddler, his grandmother took him with her to choir practice at Pilgrim Baptist Church, where he invariably found himself bored to tears. Despite his protests, she took him regularly. Sensin he wasn’t going to ever escape these tedious sessions, he hatched the idea to try and sing along with the choir, for his own diversion. As he got more confident and certain of the words, he began to sing out, which brought him to the notice of the choir as welll as its director, Thomas A. Dorsey, perhaps one of the greatest gospel composers who ever lived.

Rather than landing him in trouble, as he feared, the young Cleveland found himself crowned the new “Choir Mascot” and furthermore acquired the honor of having a song written especially for him by Thomas A. Dorsey. Dorsey spent alot of time with Cleveland which influenced and inspired him more and more as he grew older.

Before long, Cleveland began singing as a boy soprano at Pilgrim Baptist Church, under Dorsey’s baton, the watchful eye of his grandmother, and the accompaniment of famed pianist Roberta Martin. As a teenager,however, Cleveland’s voice underwent more than a normal pre-adulthood change. He strained his vocal cords singing with a local gospel group, leaving the distinctive gravelly voice that was his hallmark in his later years. The change in his voice led him to focus on his skills as a pianist and later as a composer and arranger.


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  • MrStyle

    the King of Gospel!

    23 Jan 2010 Reply
  • Syhlover1958

    My favorite gospel tunes are well remembered when I hear anything by the Rev. Cleveland. What a blessing I get just listening.

    26 Apr 2009 Reply
  • 2Serenity

    Hands down! I agree with Cheryl_Atl!

    27 Aug 2007 Reply
  • cheryl_atl

    one of the best gospel artists of all time.

    26 Mar 2007 Reply

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