Passings: Joe Ligon, Lead Singer of The Mighty Clouds of Joy (1936 - 2016)

by VVN Music

Joe Ligon, the long time lead singer of The Mighty Clouds of Joy, died on Sunday at the age of 80.

The group's manager, Pastor Issac Lindsey, issued the following statement:

We are heartbroken to share the news that the World’s Greatest Male Gospel Singer – Willie Joe Ligon, Founder and Lead Singer of the three time Grammy Award winning group – The Mighty Clouds of Joy of Los Angeles, California passed away today Sunday, December 11, 2016.

Joe was a loving Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Cousin, Uncle, Mentor, and Friend to so many who loved him dearly.

As much as Joe cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.

While we mourn the loss of a very good and humble man, we also celebrate his remarkable life as one of the most successful Artist in Gospel Music History and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.

For those who may ask what they can do to honor Joe, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a stormy day think of Joe and get comfort in knowing that he is no longer in the storm.

Additional information about the final arrangements will be released to the General Public pending Mr. Ligon’s Family’s approval.

We kindly ask everyone to please respect the Family’s privacy during this time of bereavement.

Thank you!

Best regards,
Pastor Isaac Lindsey
Joe Ligon & The Mighty Clouds of Joy

Born in Troy, AL, Ligon would constantly sing in private but was too shy to try it in public. His mother convinced him to join a harmony group his cousin had started which started to finally bring him out of his shell.

At the age of 14, he traveled to California to visit an uncle and ended up staying for a year, enrolling in a local high school and joining forces with fellow students Johnny Martin, Richard Wallace and Elmo Franklin, forming a vocal group. After fine tuning their harmonies, they started performing around the area where they were heard by a local gospel disc jockey. He helped the four young singers by recording demos and, eventually, they were signed to Peacock Records.

The Mighty Clouds of Joy released their first single, Steal Away to Jesus, in 1960 and, the following year, they put out their first album, Family Circle. Over the years, they developed a unique style that advanced the sound of gospel music to appeal to a wider audience including teens.

In 1974, the group crossed over to the R&B charts for the first time with Time and, over the next decade, they put a total of six records on that chart including their best effort, Mighty High (1976 / #22 R&B / #69 Pop) but they had even bigger success on the Dance charts where their Amazing Grace went to number 2 and Mighty High hit number 1.

Between the hit records and the fact that they were the first gospel group to appear on Soul Train, the traditional gospel community began to turn on the group but their new popularity found them opening for such groups as the Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin.

Ligon was the last of the original group members to still be involved including the recording of their 2014 album Down Memory Lane: Chapter 2.

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