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Thousands Attend Service for the Rev. James Cleveland, ‘King of Gospel’

February 17, 1991 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The Rev. James Cleveland, considered the ″king of gospel,″ was remembered with song Saturday as 8,000 people gathered for his funeral.

A gospel choir of 500 performed many of Cleveland’s beloved selections, including ″Amazing Grace,″ which he recorded with Aretha Franklin.

Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight were among the performers, politicians and fans who attended the service at Shrine Auditorium.

″Rev. Cleveland had a song in his spirit and that song had the ability to touch thousands of people not only here but across the country and around the world,″ state Sen. Diane Watson told the crowd.


″He had a special gift to be able to pull out talent in people. He could reach deep within,″ she said.

The gravel-voiced Cleveland died Feb. 9 in Los Angeles. He won three Grammy awards, had 15 gold records and inspired countless singers.

Cleveland founded the Cornerstone Institutional Baptist Church in Los Angeles in 1970 and the Gospel Music Workshop of America, which now has 20,000 members worldwide.

″A lot of singers didn’t even know they could sing before James Cleveland came along,″ said singer Cassietta George.

Others remembered Cleveland as a generous pastor.

″I remember him coming to do so many things for me; not only for me, but for so many,″ said Ledora Bullock, 51, a member of Cleveland’s church.

Cleveland was born in Chicago on Dec. 5, 1931, and began attending church with his grandmother as a child.

He sang and played the piano from an early age and has been credited with writing or arranging more than 400 gospel songs. He was the first gospel artist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

He met Miss Franklin when she was 9 and Cleveland became the choir director at her father’s church in Detroit. She has described him as the primary influence on her early career.

Burial was at Inglewood Park Cemetery after the funeral.