Jessica Cleaves, a founding member of the Friends of Distinction, died on Friday in Los Angeles at the age of 65.
Cleaves, Floyd Butler, Harry Elston and Barbara Love formed the Friends of Distinction in 1968 and were discovered by football player Jim Brown who helped them get signed to RCA Records.
The group had three record go to the top fifteen on both the Hot 100 and the R&B singles, Grazing in the Grass (1969 / #3 Pop / #5 R&B), Going in Circles (1969 / #15 Pop / #3 R&B) and Love or Let Me Be Lonely (1970 / #6 Pop / #13 R&B / #9 Adult Contemporary). They also hit the top 15 R&B albums with Grazin' (1969 / #10 R&B / #35 Pop), Highly Distinct (1969 / #14 R&B /#173 Pop) and Real Friends (1970 / #9 R&B / #68 Pop).
Cleaves left the Friends of Distinction in 1972 to go on to another Brown discovery, Earth, Wind and Fire. The band had recorded one album and one soundtrack when member Maurice White wanted to change things up a bit, bringing in Cleaves, Ronnie Laws, Philip Bailey, Larry Dunn, Roland Bautista and Ralph Johnson. Jessica was with the band when they were discovered by Clive Davis and signed to Columbia Records, marking the beginning of their ascension to the top of their career, singing on their albums Last Days and Time (1972) and their first platinum set Head to the Sky (1973).
After Head to the Sky, Cleaves, Laws and Bautista left the band with Cleaves eventually moving on to perform with Parliament-Funkadelic where she remained through the recording of their Dope Dogs album in 1993. Among her recordings with the group 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)
Cleaves activities after her years with Parliament-Funkadelic are not known. According to Wikipedia, Cleaves' godson, Armand Araujo, was looking to make a film on her life, Jessica Cleaves, My Friends of Distinction.
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