Jessica Cleaves

For fans of old school R&B and in particular The Friends of Distinction, Earth Wind & Fire and the George Clinton/Parliament/Funkadelic aggregation, we have sad news.

Singer Jessica Cleaves who put her vocal imprint on those 70s and 80s musical icons, has died. She passed away last Friday (05-02-14)  in a Los Angeles area hospital from complications of a stroke she suffered several months ago. She was 65.

Here’s what Chris Rizik’s  Soul Tracks wrote about Cleaves:

One of the most likeable and vocally cohesive singing groups of the late 60s and early 70s, the Friends of Distinction, formed by Cleaves, Harry Elston, Floyd Butler, and Barbara Love in 1968, made some of the most memorable pop/soul music of their time. Often compared to the Fifth Dimension, the Friends featured tightly harmonizing men and women dressed in late 60s “hip” clothing. And like the Fifth Dimension, the Friends of Distinction had some hits that have stood the test of time.

Cleaves left the Friends to join a fledgling Chicago band called Earth Wind & Fire, and recorded with the group for two albums, Last Days and Time and Head to the Sky. Cleaves was gone from EWF by the time of the group’s breakout album, That’s The Way of the World, but her work during her brief period in the band had many highlights.

Later in the decade, Cleaves relocated to Detroit and hooked up with George Clinton and his P-Funk crew.

Among her recordings with the group(s) are:

Gloryhallastoopid (or Pin the Tale on the Funky) (Parliament, 1979)

Uncle Jam Wants You (Funkadelic, 1979)

Trombipulation (Parliament, 1980)

Computer Games (George Clinton, 1982)

R&B Skeletons in the Closet (George Clinton, 1986)

The Cinderella Theory (George Clinton, 1989)

Hey, Man, Smell My Finger (George Clinton, 1993)

Dope Dogs (Parliament-Funkadelic, 1994)

After her stint with Clinton/P-Funk, she basically faded from the public eye. When Clinton heard of Cleaves death, he posted this response on the singer’s memorial page:

“Our friend Jessica Cleaves left us today. Jessica, you will truly be missed, it was a great honor to funk with you…May you fly forever in peace.”

Jessica Cleaves may be gone, but her friends and family will celebrate her life this Friday (05-09-14) at 3pm in memorial services aboard the SS Lane in San Pedro, CA, according to Kelly Shapiro, an associate/friend of Cleaves.

Shapiro also informed us that Cleaves’ godson, filmmaker Armand Araujo, was in the process of filming her life story, “Jessica Cleaves, My Friends of Distinction.”


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