Joe Ligon, the dynamic frontman of the Grammy-winning gospel group Mighty Clouds of Joy, died Dec. 11 in Georgia.
His booking agent, Ricky DeRae, confirmed the death. No other details were reported. The AP reported his age as 80; according to other sources, he was 74.
Mr. Ligon was born Willie Joe Ligon in Troy, Ala. He moved to Los Angeles and started the gospel quartet in the 1950s. The ensemble was influenced by R&B groups such as the Temptations, as well as the Rev. Julius Cheeks, a Los Angeles singer known for his baritone voice.
The original members of the band included Johnny Martin, Elmo and Ermant Franklin, Leon Polk and Richard Wallace. They won back-to-back Grammy Awards in 1978 and 1979 for best soul gospel performance, traditional, and won again in 1991 for best traditional soul gospel album.
“Steal Away to Jesus” was their first recording in 1960, with their first album debuting on Peacock Records.
With a singing style derived from Southern Baptist churches, Mr. Ligon would shout, scream and jump into the crowds, and would deliver sermons in between songs. Among Mighty Clouds of Joy’s most popular songs were “Time,” which crossed over to the R&B charts in 1974, and “Mighty High,” a 1975 disco hit.
They become the first gospel act to appear on “Soul Train,” which earned them criticism among traditional gospel music fans.
“We were one of the first groups to do contemporary gospel. And we got stoned for it,” Mr. Ligon told the AP in a 1993 interview.
Their crossover success brought them additional recognition, and they opened for the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon and Aretha Franklin. They played for President Jimmy Carter and toured extensively overseas.
Mr. Ligon told the AP that, at age 56, he could hit every note that he could at 18.
“Gospel singers don’t retire, you know, they just die doing what they do,” he said.
A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.
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