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Gospel Music Hall of Fame
One of the greatest Gospel groups of all-time, the Mighty Clouds of Joy have been trendsetters like no others. They epitomize the essence of the term Gospel Quartet. While Gospel music is dominated today by choirs and solo artists, it is the Mighty Clouds of Joy who carry on their legendary status.
The Clouds were the first Gospel group to perform on "Soul Train." "We were very nervous that the public wouldn't understand our Soul Train performance," says Joe Ligon. "When our disco hit, 'Mighty High,' was played, we were shocked at the reaction of the kids dancing." Joe adds, "We were ahead of our time. Now it's one of our most requested songs. The diehard Gospel fans gave us flack like you wouldn't believe it wasn't churchy enough for them. They said we'd sold out and gone funky."
But the Clouds stuck to their guns, and soon were taking Gospel to places it seldom, if ever, had been. Over the years, they have won multiple Grammy awards and opened for the likes of Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Rolling Stones and Paul Simon, whom they backed for a month at New York's Madison Square Garden. And the "funkified" Gospel they had pioneered gradually became accepted as a standard part of Gospel music.
The Clouds hold the distinction of being the most visible of any Gospel act in history, performing on nearly every major television show in America, including "The Grammy Awards," "The Stellar Awards," "CBS Special," "Prime Time Country," "PBS Special," "The Johnny Cash Show," "Mike Douglas Show," "Merv Griffin Show," "Lou Rawls Parade of Stars," and the "Arsenio Hall Show."
Overflowing with energy on stage, the Mighty Clouds of Joy were one of the first quartets to incorporate movement and choreography into their act. With matching, brightly color-coordinated outfits, the Clouds coupled a new level of showmanship with their ministry, even becoming known as "the Temptations of Gospel."
Since they formed in 1955 and first began recording in 1960, the Mighty Clouds of Joy have endured many musical trends. They were the first to add bass, drums and keyboards to the traditional quartet accompaniment of solo electric guitar. Though more traditional members of Gospel audiences were critical, the Clouds stuck to their commitment to be different from the pack, and they reigned supreme. More innovations causing controversy followed for some time to come. "The lyrics were always a very strong Gospel message," says Joe, "but the music was a long way from 'Will the Circle Be Unbroken.'"
After more than 40 years singing the Gospel, the Mighty Clouds of Joy still have the power to excite and inspire their ever-increasing following. "We see ourselves as singers who minister to the people and encourage them that the Lord is real and there for us, and that commitment has only grown stronger over the years," said Joe Ligon.
"People today seem hungry for much more than entertainment. With all the terrible things happening in the world now, their souls are looking for nourishment...for something to believe in. That spark that only the Holy Spirit can give you is still burning strong in us," Joe concluded. "If we ever lost that, we might as well pack it in and go home."
In 1993, the group, who had worked with James Bullard since 1979, signed with Intersound and released "Power" and received a Grammy nomination for Best Gospel Group.
On January 26, 1996, Quartet music supporters gathered in Birmingham, Alabama, for the Fourth Annual American Gospel Convention Awards Night and Hall of Fame Inductions. Joe Ligon was inducted and presented The Key To The City Of Birmingham.
Later in the year they would join The Williams Brothers and Slim & The Supreme Angels in an historic recording, Gospel SuperBowl Concert in Atlanta, Georgia, released as a collectors album, "Together As One: A Tribute To The Heritage of Quartet Music," reaching number three on Billboard charts.
Today, the Mighty Clouds of Joy are still touring worldwide as they continue to stay true to their form of singing Quartet as well as contemporary Gospel.
(Lead singer, Joe Ligon, died in 2016.)
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