Ashley Cleveland is a singer/songwriter who has won two Dove Awards and a Grammy for her music. She was raised in Tennessee and her spiritual music reflects her upbringing. Cleveland shared several songs at Faith and Learning on January 26 at Friends University.
Cleveland rocks a fuchsia and a teal guitar and a voice unlike any other. She said her favorite songs stem from traditional hymns because their meaning runs so deep. Cleveland explained that black gospel hymns, although unknown in origin, were written by slaves working in the fields or in churches and used to preach the Gospel. Music was a centerpiece to daily life – the slaves would sing their way through the day.
Often, the hymns reflected terrible suffering and shared stories of hardship and distress. The author of “It is Well With my Soul” had recently lost his business in the Chicago fire and his four daughters in a ship wreck on a ship that was supposed to be taking his family to security. He was in agony when he wrote the song, but the song speaks truth: No matter what struggles we are facing, when we give our soul to the Lord, he makes it well.
Cleveland said she is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic and that she has seen much improvement in her life. At the beginning of her recovery, she said she realized this of God: “He had not forgotten me, and maybe I could live.” Although she was as far away from God as she could have been, He was there, taking care of her. Her soul was well.
Cleveland’s conviction and her confidence in Christ is reflected in her music. Her powerful voice shares the story of one who knows what suffering is, but also knows what it means to be found.