The Detroit Gospel community joins with others across the country in mourning due to the unexpected passing of a gospel pioneer, Bishop James Lenzy Craig, Sr. Bishop Craig was the surviving member of the Stellar Award-nominated singing duo, The Legendary Craig Brothers, who performed traditional gospel music throughout the country.
The Craig legacy is extensive and laudable. In the late 1950’s their father, Rev. Charles Ashley Craig, Jr., a masterful musician and arranger, organized Our Faith Prayer Tabernacle and invited James Cleveland to become Minister of Music. From there the church fashioned a masterful group of 125 singers they called the “Voices of Tabernacle”. This choir was one of the first of its kind and became known for their precise performances and numerous recordings such as “Lord Do It”, “God Has Smiled On Me” and many others. This choir is also credited with catapulting Rev. Cleveland’s Gospel music career with the chart-topping tune, “The Love of God”. Thereafter he was known as the King of Gospel Music.
Bishop Craig was well known for his soulful, skillful and simplistic method of interpreting a Gospel song. However, singing was not Bishop Craig’s only forte; as he was equally comfortable directing the choir. His unique renditions of hymns and Gospel songs captivated his audiences. His spirituality and charisma, coupled with his innate ability to direct the choir into one uninterrupted note while adjusting his suit, were known to leave the church in spiritual frenzy. Bishop Craig commanded complete control of the choir and the musicians. His exceptional styling and expressive showmanship raised the bar for today’s choir directors and their choirs.
In January of 1984, Bishop Craig assisted his brother, Bishop Charles Craig, III in establishing Craig Memorial Tabernacle and upon his brother’s passing he assumed the pastorate of the church. Along with being an artist in his own rite, Bishop Craig was also Co-Minister of Music of the Detroit Chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of America and an artist on both “Detroit Remembers” recordings.
Not exclusive of his musical passions, Bishop Craig was national Security Director for the Gospel Music Workshop of America as well as a member of the staff of the C.W. Morris/J.W. Henry Funeral Home in Detroit, MI. He was also involved in many charitable causes.
On Sunday, July 29, 2012, Bishop Craig passed suddenly and succinctly after singing a stirring, spiritually uplifting rendering of the gospel favorite, “Jesus, I’ll Never Forget” and the “Yes” praise. Likewise, we will never forget Bishop James L. Craig. He is survived by his son and daughter-in-law, Rev. & Mrs. James L. Craig, Jr., their family; the Craig Memorial Tabernacle family and the Detroit Gospel Music community. We will celebrate his life with a musical at 6pm on Friday, August 3rd and the Homegoing Service will be Saturday, August 4th at 9am. Both services will be held at Craig Memorial Tabernacle in Detroit, MI.
Submitted by: Sandra Rose