LOS ANGELES -- The Rev. James L. Cleveland, 59, revered by the music world as the "king of gospel" who taught a 9-year-old Aretha Franklin to sing gospel and inspired countless other artists, died Feb. 9 at a hospital here. He had heart and respiratory ailments.
Mr. Cleveland, a three-time Grammy winner, was a pianist, baritone singer, composer, arranger and producer. He was regarded by some as the world's foremost gospel musician. He also was a Baptist minister and founding pastor of Cornerstone Institutional Baptist Church in Los Angeles.
He often described his voice as a fog horn. He has been credited with writing and arranging more than 400 gospel songs, including "Everything Will Be All Right," "The Love of God" and "Peace Be Still." Sixteen of his albums went gold. He was the first gospel artist to receive a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. He had worked with such performers as Franklin, Quincy Jones and Edwin Hawkins.
Mr. Cleveland was nominated this year for a Grammy for "Having Church" in the category of best gospel album by a choir or chorus. He won Grammys for "In the Ghetto" in 1974, "James Cleveland Live at Carnegie Hall" in 1977 and "Lord, Let Me Be an Instrument" in 1980.
He became a friend of President Carter's and was invited to sing at the White House on several occasions.
In an interview last year with the Los Angeles Times, he said he got started in the music industry by watching Mahalia Jackson and others perform.
"I'd stand around by the door and hope somebody's musician didn't show up. Then I'd offer to play for them," he said.
"They'd ask me, 'Boy, can you play such and such?' And I'd always say I could even if I never heard of it before in my life," Cleveland said. "Then they'd say, 'All right. I need it in E-flat,' and I'd go right out there and start playing."
Mr. Cleveland was a native of Chicago's South Side. Later, he moved into the home of the Rev. C.L. Franklin, the father of soul legend Aretha Franklin. He taught the 9-year-old child how to sing gospel. He later produced her Grammy-winning gospel album "Amazing Grace."
In an interview last year, gospel singer Joe Ligon, a "disciple" of Mr. Cleveland's, said Mr. Cleveland once told him that as a boy he made sure he was heard in church by handing an usher an anonymous note reading, "Will you please tell the preacher James Cleveland is in the audience and we want him to sing."
He regarded the Gospel Music Workshop of America in Detroit as his greatest accomplishment. He founded the workshop in 1968 as a small group of musicians and vocalists. It grew to 200 chapters with 20,000 members nationwide.
Survivors include a daughter, three sisters and a brother.