CLEVELAND, James. b. Chicago, Illinois, 5 December 1931; d. Los Angeles, California, 9 February 1991. Singer, composer, pianist, choir director, recording artist, James Cleveland is regarded the single most important figure in African-American gospel music in the 20th century. As a young boy, Cleveland sang in the choir of Chicago’s Pilgrim Baptist Church, where the ministers of music were Thomas A. Dorsey* who in 1930 had introduced the church to his ‘gospel blues’, and Roberta Martin (1907-69) gospel pianist, arranger, and soloist. During his formative years he also sang with the Mahalia Jackson Singers, played piano for the Caravans, and was licensed to preach by the Church of God in...
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