Gospel singer James Phelps dies at 78

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James Phelps, 78, a gospel and R&B singer who performed with soul greats including Sam Cooke and Lou Rawls, has died in Los Angeles, the Associated Press reported.

Elder Lee M. Harris, who co-wrote an autobiography of Phelps, said the singer died Tuesday at a Los Angeles hospital, apparently from complications of diabetes.

Phelps was born in Shreveport, La. In his late teens, he moved to Chicago, where he performed with several gospel groups, including the Gospel Songbirds, Holy Wonders and Soul Stirrers. It was with the Holy Wonders that Phelps performed with Rawls. He met Cooke while a member of the Soul Stirrers.

Phelps was a founder of the group Clefs of Calvary and had a hit single ‘Love is a Five-Letter Word’ in 1965 with Chess Records.


-- Associated Press