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Caesar, Shirley 1938–

Shirley Caesar 1938

Gospel vocalist, evangelist

Satisfied with Her Life Choice

A Life Devoted to Ministry

Ministry Led to Public Office

Never Pursued Fame and Fortune

Selected discography

Sources

Often called the first lady of gospel music, award-winning Shirley Caesar has inspired many people for forty years. She and her singing group perform all over the country to packed audiences. Not only have many of her recordings been reissued, but they have been nominated for seventeen Grammy Awards, more than any gospel artist in history. Praising God through music, however, was not enough. Caesar went on to preach, eventually becoming the co-pastor of the Mt. Calvary Holy Church with her husband, Bishop Harold Ivory Williams.

Shirley began to sing in church at an early age, with her family, which was headed by gospel singer Big Jim Caesar. In 1950, tragedy struck the family when her father died of a fatal seizure. For years Caesar thought her father had died because he whipped her that day for breaking some street lights. She was twelve years old. That same year, Caesar began to take her singing seriously, especially since her mother, a semi-invalid, was left with 13 children to raise. Caesar started touring as a gospel soloist with evangelist Reverend Leroy Johnson. A year later, Caesar had made her first recording, the single, Id Rather Have Jesus.

While attending a concert of Albertina Walkers Caravans, the top female gospel singing group of its day, Caesar wrote a request on a slip of paper: Please call Shirley Caesar to sing a solo. Walker called her up on stage and when she finished, Caesar told Howard Reich in the Chicago Tribune, that Walker had remarked, I want that woman in my group. In 1958, after Walkers invitation, Caesar interrupted her business education studies at North Carolina State College, sold her biology book for ten dollars, took a bus to Washington D.C., and joined the Caravans. Besides Walker, the group included Inez Andrews, a three-octave range contralto known as the High Priestess of Gospel, and ballad singer Sarah McKissick, and gospel great, Rev. James Cleveland.

Satisfied with Her Life Choice

The early years on the road with the Caravans were difficult for Caesar. Many restaurants in the sixties posted Whites Only signs. Eateries that would serve her singing group often put little care into the preparation of the food. Caesar will always remember a bout

At a Glance

Born on October 13, 1938, in Durham, NC; daughter of Big Jim (tobacco factory worker, gospel singer) and Hallie Martin (homemaker) Caesar; married Bishop Harold Ivory Williams (a pastor), 1983. Education: North Carolina State College (now North Carolina Central University), 1956-58; Shaw University (Raleigh, NC), B.A., 1984, business administration.

Career: Began singing as Baby Shirley; joined Albertina Walkers Caravans, 1958-66; evangelist, 1961-; formed Shirley Caesar Singers, 1966-; Durham City Council, 1987-1991; co-pastor, Mt. Calvary Holy Church in Winston-Salem, NC and Raleigh, NC; Shirley Caesar Outreach Ministries, Inc.

Selected awards: Nine Grammy Awards, including an award for Put Your Hand in the Hand of the Man from Galilee, 1972, best soul gospel performance, contemporary for Rejoice, 1981, and best single for Martin, 1985; Ebony Magazine Award for best female gospel singer, 1975; nine Dove Awards for Gospel; named annual spokeswoman for McDonalds Salute to Gospel Music, 1987; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major Award, 1987; ten Stellar Gospel Awards; two NAACP Image Awards; Pride of SESAC Award for lifetime achievement, 1997; 3 gold albums; inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

Address: Office Shirley Caesar Outreach Ministries, Inc., P.O. Box 3336, Durham, NC 27702.

with food poisoning that left her Sick, sick, sick! she told Mike Nappa of CCM Magazine.

Throughout her lifes work, Caesar has focused on gospel music, considered the fastest growing genre in the music industry in the 1990s. Gospel music enthusiasts often compare her to singer Mahalia Jackson, the Grand Dame of Gospel. Caesar herself has earned the moniker Queen of Gospel. Caesar, happy with that role, told Ebony, America will never outgrow its need for gospel [music] because it will never outgrow its need for God.

When Caesar was twelve, she heard the Lords voice calling her name and calling her to preach. Until 1961 Caesar just used her voice to sing, but with the recording of the single, Hallelujah, Its Done, Caesar found that incorporating scripture and sermon into her songs was a natural style for her. Although this song and sermonette technique was created by Mother Willie Mae Ford Smith and Edna Gallmon Cooke, Caesar developed it with enthusiasm. In 1966, after eight years with the Caravans, Caesar left to organize her own group, the Caesar Singers. Recording executives often approached Caesar to crossover into rhythm and blues, but she adamantly refused throughout her career.

A 1997 CCM Magazine writer, Jamie Lee Rake, noted that Caesars voice is an inventive, passionate, nimble instrument. In 1998, Atlanta Journal and Constitution reporter Sonia Murray referred to Caesars voice as a gale force instrument. That voice has praised the Lord and blessed His people around the world with a traditional style of gospel music. Besides the comparison to Mahalia Jackson, Caesar has been likened to gospel singer Clara Ward and makes no apologies for sticking with gospel music throughout her career. Her style may be traditional but she keeps her musics message up-to-date, passionate, and heartfelt. Her concerts attract listeners who rarely darken a church step.

A Life Devoted to Ministry

Not surprisingly, Caesars singing style also led her to work as an evangelist. In 1983, Caesar married Bishop Harold Ivory Williams and became co-pastor of Mt. Calvary Holy Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and later in Raleigh-Durham. After her elaborate weddingthere were 140 people in the wedding partyCaesar would pursue the education that was interrupted 25 years earlier. In 1985, Caesar obtained a degree in business management from Shaw University. The degree prompted her to immediately pursue a master of divinity degree at Duke University.

Caesar lives what she preaches. In 1990 she told Jet magazine, Fifty percent of everything I earn on the road I put back into the community. Shirley Caesar Outreach Ministries, Inc., which is in her hometown of Durham, North Carolina, serves those in need by providing food, clothing, and emergency funds. During its first year alone, more than 500 families received help. The ministry relies entirely on contributions and income donated by Caesar and Bishop Williams since they are unwilling to rely on public funding as other charities do.

The outreach ministry has greatly affected Caesars music. She tackles contemporary issues like drugs, cocaine babies, homeless people, AIDS, teenage mothers, broken marriages, and even cancer in the songs she has written. Many of her songs, for example, Dont Drive Your Mother Away, focus on families. Caesar was close to her mother and family and wanted others to understand the value and need for that kind of bond. Caesar is grateful that her mother was an inspiration, an encourager, and a conscience. By using her gifted voice, Caesar never let her mother down.

Ministry Led to Public Office

In 1988, while Caesar was a member of the Durham City Council, she commented to Ebony magazine, My main objective is to make sure we focus on the needy and not the greedy. Many wondered how she managed to fit the twice-monthly council meetings into her busy life, but Caesar saw the council as an opportunity to continue what she had started with the Outreach Ministries. Fair housing, along with programs for the poor and the elderly were issues that concerned her and many on the council, especially since the 150,000 population of Durham had grown consistently in the eighties.

After her four year term, Caesar felt a stronger pull to serve as a pastor than as a council member, especially since Mt. Calvary Holy Church had grown from 15 to 600 members by the end of her term. In 1990, while on the council, Caesar was ordained as a pastor. Wanting only to serve with her husband, Pastor Caesar takes no money for her position. Serving the Lord takes precedence over her concerts even. The Caesar Singers often drive all night so Pastor Caesar can be in the pulpit on Sunday. Noted Howard Reich in the Chicago Tribune, Caesar wants to be a real pastor who also happens to sing gospel.

Never Pursued Fame and Fortune

Caesar has recorded more than 30 albums and gives more than 150 concerts a year. For many years she has also hosted an annual Crusade Convention. Judges in the music industry have recognized Caesars musical talent with numerous awards. As of 1998, she had earned nine Grammys, 15 Dove Awards, and ten Stellar Gospel Awards. Caesar has also received two NAACP Image Awards. Though Caesar has been inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, sung for President Jimmy Carter, and performed at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, fame and fortune were never important to her. What continues to be important to her is reaching needy people and bringing the hope offered by Christ into their lives.

Whatever means Caesar could use to reach people, she used. Caesar has done four Broadway shows, contributed to The Preachers Wife and Rosewood movie soundtracks, guest-starred on United Paramount Networks television show, Good News (where she now has a recurring role), performed on The Arsenio Hall Show and Live With Regis and Kathie Lee, and even on a large home-shopping network. Singer Bob Dylan, when chosen as a Kennedy Center honoree, asked her to perform his song, Gotta Serve Somebody. In 1997 Caesar performed in the theatrical production, This Is My Song, which traces the history of gospel music. The play was set in the fictitious Mt. Zion Church of Faith with Caesar as the pastor, Cissy Houston as its music director, and Tramaine Hawkins as a special guest. USA Today reviewer Steve Jones called the performance of the three famous gospel singers more a soul-stirring church service than theater. As the story unfolded through song, the audience often joined with foot-stomping, singing, and working its way to the stage to shake Pastor Caesars hand. By whatever means, Caesar is determined to reach people.

In a 1987 interview with USA Today Caesar commented, Gospel music teaches us to love, respect, to uphold. It may speak of hell, damnation, and fire, but it also speaks of the bright side, that the Lord is faithful, and he is loving, kind, and forgiving. You wont find that in other songs, that no matter where you have fallen, the grace of God will pick you up. Gospel music will tell you that when you pray, God listens. Many would say that Shirley Caesars powerful and message-filled singing points the way to Gods grace.

Selected discography

Albums

Rejoice, Myrrh Records, 1982.

Christmasing, 1992.

Hes Working It Out for You, Sony Music, 1992.

I Remember Mama, Sony Music, 1992.

Jesus, I Love Calling Your Name, Sony Music, 1992.

First Lady, 1993.

Her Very Best, Sony Music, 1993.

Live in Chicago, Sony Music, 1993.

Stand Still, Word Records, 1993.

Why Me Lord, 1993.

Gold, 1994.

He Will Come: Shirley; Caesar Live, Sony Music, 1995.

Best of Shirley Caesar & The Caravans, Malaco/Savoy Gospel, 1995.

Just a Word, Sony Music, 1996.

Sailin, Sony Music, 1996.

Treasures, 1996.

Shirley Caesar Convention Choir, Word Records, 1996.

Miracle in Harlem, Sony/Word Records, 1997.

Shirley Caesar & The Caravans, Malaco/Savoy Gospel, 1997.

The Very Best of Shirley Caesar, Collectibles Records, 1998.

Shirley Caesar: The Lady, the Melody, and the Word, 1998.

Videos

Oh Happy Day, University of Missouri Agricultural Press, 1989.

Caesar: Live in Memphis, Cmvca Press, 1992.

Caesar: He Will Come, Cmvca Press, 1995.

Caesar: I Remember Mama, Cmvca Press, 1995.

Shirley Caesar in Concert, University of Missouri Agricultural Press, 1998.

Also author of The Lady, the Melody, and the Word: The Inspirational Story of the First Lady of Gospel Music, Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1998.

Sources

Books

Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, edited by Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, Indiana University Press, 1993.

In Black and White, Gale Research, 1980.

Notable Black American Women, Gale Research, 1992, pp. 151-152.

Periodicals

Atlanta Constitution, April 25, 1993, p. N; July 22, 1996, p. SS39; January 29, 1998, p. 4E.

Billboard, October 2, 1993, p. 57; August 3, 1996, pp. 48-50; March 29, 1997, p. 17; November 29, 1997, p. 10; January 10, 1998, pp. 14-15.

CCM Magazine, July 1997.

Chicago Tribune, January 17, 1992, p. 3.

Christian Herald, June 1981, p. 60; June 1983, p. 36.

Ebony, December 1988, pp. 66-70; March 1994, p. 20; April 1994, pp. 76-79; February 1996, p. 44; December 1996, pp. 36-37.

Entertainment Weekly, November 29, 1996, p. 88.

Essence, April 1985, p. 42.

Jet, March 19, 1981, p. 64; July 18, 1983, p. 13; March 25, 1985, p. 21; January 8, 1990, p. 53.

Los Angeles Times, October 13, 1997, p. F.

News, July 9, 1997.

People Weekly, November 9, 1987, pp. 85-86; January 13, 1997, p. 22.

USA Today, October 1, 1987, p. 11; March 21, 1997, p. D; January 12, 1998, p. D3.

Washington Post, February 22, 1998, p. G1.

Other

Additional information found on the Southern Folklife Collection Website, http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/sfc/ncfolk.html.

Eileen Daily

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Caesar, Shirley

Shirley Caesar

Singer

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

With 150 concerts a year, 25 hours a week helping the poor in her Outreach Ministries, eleven Grammys, and more than 30 albums to her credit, Shirley Caesar may seem to be a whole army of gospel singers instead of just one diminutive woman. The Queen of Gospel packs a lot of wallop in her small frame. Backed by a 60-person choir, rocking like a tempest, she is a bundle of fireworks on the Fourth of July. The gospel style of song and sermonette, singing that involves both the spoken word and dramatic acting, was developed primarily by Caesar. She journeys all over the world, sometimes traveling all night to return to her pulpit in Durham, North Carolina, the town where she was born. It is not easy, said Shirley in her 1995 video He Will Come (Word Records). In fact, sometimes it is downright mind-boggling. But, somehow, even though Im wearing all of these hats, the Lord helps me to just barrel through it. Shirley has barreled through over 50 years of touring and preaching, starting at age ten, and she continues to bring the house down every time she performs.

The tenth of 12 children, Caesar was born on October 13, 1938. Her father James was a tobacco worker who was well-known in the Carolinas as the lead singer in a gospel quartet, the Just Came Four. Caesar began singing with the group at age ten. When she was eight, her father died, and she began touring several years later with an evangelist named LeRoy Johnson, who also had a television show in Portsmouth, Virginia. In 1951, at 13, she recorded her first song Id Rather Have Jesus. While still in high school, she toured throughout the Carolinas.

This was a time when Jim Crow laws were still in effect in North Carolina. Caesar remembers restaurants putting up the CLOSED sign when she would arrive. I went to school in the days when all the white kids got things better, she told People. I remember once when a lady gave cookies to all the kids in the school. The white kids got the fresh ones; we got the stale ones. Despite these obstacles, her beloved mother Hannah taught her to respect herself and to persevere.

Her determination took her to North Carolina Central College where she studied business education. She has said that she got the call to Gods work in the middle of a typing test. According to Kim Hubbard of People, she heard someone call out her name. Caesar turned to the young woman next to her and asked if she had spoken. When Caesar went home, she lay on the bed, and heard the same voice: Behold, I have called you from your mothers womb and I have anointed your lips to preach the gospel. Caesar believed that this was a message that foretold special work for her in spreading the Gospel. Around the same time, Caesar heard Chicagos female gospel group, the Caravans, and she saw an opportunity to answer the call. She sought an audition with the group, was immediately hired, and left school for a life of singing and ministry.

For the Record

Born on October 13, 1938, in Durham, NC; daughter of James (lead singer in the gospel quartet Just Came Four) and Hannah; married Rev. Harold Williams, 1983. Education: Enrolled at Shaw University in business education and graduated, 1984.

Sang on tour with her father from age ten; after he died, joined evangelist LeRoy Johnson, 1950; first recording Id Rather Have Jesus, 1951; joined the Caravans, 1958; recorded Hallelujah, Its Done, 1961; formed the Caesar Singers, 1966; sang at the White House for President George H.W. Bush, 1992; Broadway gospel musical Mama, I Want to Sing, 1994; Broadway musical Sing: Mama 2, 1995; Broadway musical Born to Sing: Mama 3, 1996; performed at President Bill Clintons inauguration, 1997; co-pastor, Mt. Calvary Holy Church in Winston-Salem, NC, and Raleigh, NC; founded Shirley Caesar Outreach Ministries, Inc.; released Hymns, 2002.

Awards: Grammy Award, Best Soul Gospel Performance for Put Your Hand in the Hand of the Man From Galilee, 1971: Grammy Award, Best Soul Gospel Performance for Rejoice, 1980; induction, Gospel Hall of Fame, 1971; Grammy Award, Best Soul Gospel perfomance by a Duo or Group for Sailin, 1984; Grammy Award, Best Female Soul Gospel Performance for Saihn, 1984; Grammy Award, Best Female Soul Gospel Performance for Martin, 1985; NAACP Achievement award, 1987; Grammy Award, Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album for Hes Working It Out For You, 1992; Grammy Award, Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album for Stand Still, 1993; Grammy Award, Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album for Shirley Caesar Live He Will Come, 1995; as choir director, Grammy Award, Best Gospel Album by a Choir or Chorus for Just a Word, 1996; Grammy Award, Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album for Christmas with Shirley Caesar, 1996; Grammy Award, Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album for You Can Make It, 2000; 17 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards.

Addresses: Office Shirley Caesar Outreach Ministries, Inc., P.O. Box 3336, Durham, NC 27702. Website-Shirley Caesar Official Website: http://www.shirleycaesar.com.

The Caravans had several members who became famous in the history of gospel music: Albertina Walker, Inez Andrews, and Sarah McKissick. Each woman had a different style, and Caesars contribution was an energetic and dramatic approach where she would act out the songs and walk among the congregation, engaging the members directly. On the song I Wont Be Back, she would run through the hall searching for an exit, then leave for a brief period. Her forte was the sermon in the middle of songs that addressed the subject of the song and expounded on its theme. She exhorted the listeners to reach out to God and to take the example of Jesus. On the subject of motherhood, she was particularly effective. Her song Dont Drive Your Mama Away tells of a son who is shamed for putting his mother in the rest home.

Along the way, Caesar found a male counterpart in the singer James Cleveland and they made several records together. They became known as the King and Queen of Gospel. Caesar formed her own group in 1966 called the Caesar Singers, but she would reunite with the Caravans and the Reverend Cleveland occasionally throughout the years. In 1971, she won her first Grammyfor the popular song Put Your Hand in the Hand of the Man from Galilee. On the night of the awards, she had returned very late from an engagement in Homer, Louisiana. People began banging on her door, and when she eventually answered, her sister Ann, one of her backup singers, shouted You won! It was the first Grammy for a black female gospel singer since Mahalia Jackson won the award in 1962.

Among her numerous honors are 17 Dove Awards, the Gospel Music Associations highest tribute. She was inducted into the Gospel Hall of Fame in 1982. She was the first female gospel artist to perform at Harvard University. In recent years, Caesar has moved into other media, making several videos: Live in Memphis, I Remember Mama, and He Will Come. Broadway found that the gospel singer could conquer a big city when Caesar packed them in for the musical Mama, I Want to Sing in 1994. Her second Broadway musical in 1995 was titled Sing: Mama 2. Born to Sing: Mama 3 followed soon after. Perhaps her proudest achievement was the creation of a ministry in Durham to provide emergency funds, food and shelter for the needy, called the Shirley Caesar Outreach Ministries, Inc. When Caesar ran for public office and was elected to the Durham City Council in 1987, she concentrated her efforts on housing and care for the poor and elderly. She told Ebony magazine, My main objective is to make sure we focus on the needy and not the greedy.

Her biggest fan, the Reverend Harold I. Williams, whom Caesar has called my pastor, my best friend, my husband, assessed his wifes character in the 1995 video He Will Come: After twelve years, Im going to say the same thing I said after the first year I was married to Shirleyexciting! You never know what is coming next. I mean it is exciting. It is from one thing to another. Shes an exciting person. Shes a joy to be around. Williams and Caesar were married in an elaborate wedding in 1983 that had 140 people in the wedding party alone. Soon after their marriage, they became co-pastors at the Mt. Calvary Holy Church in North carolina.

Caesar released a number of albums before the end of the decade. A Miracle in Harlem, a live album released in 1997, was recorded at the First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York, and featured backup vocals from the Love Fellowship Church Choir. Caesars autobiography, Shirley Caesar: The Lady, the Melody, the Word, was published at the same time. She released You Can Make It in 2000, an energetic collection of songs that covered a range of styles from traditional gospel to soul to R&B. Her next album, the simply titled Hymns, featured a number of guest vocalists, including Michelle Williams of pop group Destinys Child. Once again, the recording was widely praised. A reviewer in Ebony remarked, No one delivers down-home gospel with the conviction, depth, and earthiness of Shirley Caesar.

Over the years, Caesar has tried out many different styles of music, while keeping her message of faith and worship consistent. But while her catalog is varied, there is a consistency to it that ensures her fans will almost always be pleased by any new recordings. Drew Dawson, the manager of KHVN, a gospel music radio station in Dallas, Texas, remarked in Billboard, Theres always something that is signature Shirley Caesar, with a traditional church feel and [a] serious, deep message. Its what [her] audiences have come to depend on. Caesar knows where her popularity is coming from. I believe God is using gospel to grab the hearts of the people, she stated in Billboard. Its a world within itself, and my prayer is that the Lord will just continue to let it grow.

Selected discography

The Best of Shirley Caesar with the Caravans, Savoy, 1966.

Rejoice, Word/Epic, 1980.

Jesus, I Love Calling Your Name, Word/Epic, 1982.

Sailin, Word/Epic, 1984.

Go, Word/Epic/Myrrh, 1984.

Celebration, Word/Epic/Myrrh, 1986.

Her Very Best, Word/Epic, 1987.

Live In Chicago, Word/Epic, 1988.

Remember Mama, Word/Epic, 1989.

Hes Working It Out For You, Word/Epic, 1991.

Stand Still, Word/Epic, 1993.

Why Me Lord, HOB, 1993.

He Touched Me, HOB, 1994.

Shirley Caesar Live He Will Come, Word/Epic, 1995.

Just a Word, Word, 1996.

Lord Will Make a Way, AMW, 1997.

A Miracle in Harlem, Word, 1997.

Christmas with Shirley Caesar, Sony, 1998; reissued, Myrrh, 2000.

You Can Make It, Myrrh, 2000.

Hymns, Sony, 2001.

He Will Come to You, Word, 2002.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 19, Gale Research, 1998.

Cusic, Don, The Sound of Light: A History of Gospel Music, 1993.

Heilbut, Anthony, The Gospel Sound, 1985.

Periodicals

American Gospel, March/April 1992.

Billboard, March 29, 1997.

Ebony, December 1988; March 1994; February 1996; January 2002.

Essence, October 1990.

Jet, January 8, 1990; August 26, 1991; March 9, 1992.

Journal of American Folklore, Summer 1991.

People, November 9, 1987.

Online

Shirley Caesar Official Website, http://www.shirleycaesar.com (November 5, 2002).

Paul Anderson

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Caesar, Shirley

Shirley Caesar

Gospel singer

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

With 150 concerts a year, 25 hours a week helping the poor in her Outreach Ministries, seven Gram-mies, and thirty record albums to her credit, Shirley Caesar may seem to be a whole army of gospel singers instead of just one diminutive woman. The Queen of Gospel packs a lot of wallop in her small frame. Backed by a sixty-person choir, rocking like a tempest, she is a bundle of fireworks on the Fourth of July. The gospel style of song and sermonette, singing that involves both the spoken word and dramatic acting, was developed primarily by Shirley Caesar. She journeys all over the world, sometimes traveling all night to return to her pulpit in Durham, North Carolina, the town where she was born. It is not easy, said Shirley in her 1995 video He Will Come (Word Records), In fact, sometimes it is downright mind-boggling. But, somehow, even though Im wearing all of these hats, the Lord helps me to just barrel through it. Shirley has barreled through 50years of touring and preaching, starting at age ten, and she continues to bring the house down every time she performs.

The tenth of 12 children, Shirley Caesar was born October 13, 1938. Her father James was a tobacco worker who was well-known in the Carolinas as the lead singer in a gospel quartet, the Just Came Four. Shirley began singing with the group at age ten. When she was twelve, her father died, and she began touring with an evangelist named LeRoy Johnson, who also had a television show in Portsmouth, Virginia. In 1951, at thirteen, she recorded her first song Id Rather Have Jesus. While still in high school, she toured throughout the Carolinas.

This was a time when Jim Crow laws were still in effect in North Carolina. Shirley remembers restaurants putting up the CLOSED sign when she would arrive. I went to school in the days when all the white kids got things better, she told People Weekly, I remember once when a lady gave cookies to all the kids in the state. The white kids got the fresh ones; we got the stale ones. Despite these obstacles, her beloved mother Hannah taught her to respect herself and to persevere.

Her determination took her to North Carolina Central College where she studied business education. She has said that she got the call to Gods work in the middle of a typing test. According to Kim Hubbard of People Weekly, she heard someone call out her name. Shirley turned to the young woman next to her and asked if she had spoken. When Shirley went home, she lay on the bed, and heard the same voice: Behold, I have called you from your mothers womb and I have anointed your lips to preach the gospel. Shirley believed that this was a message that foretold special work for her in spreading the Gospel. Around the same time, Shirley heard

For the Record

Born October 13, 1938 in Durham, NC; daughter of James (lead singer in the gospel quartet Just Came Four) and Hannah; married Rev. Harold Williams, 1983. Education: enrolled at Shaw University in business education and graduated 1984.

Sang on tour with her father from age ten; after James Caesar died, joined evangelist LeRoy Johnson 1950; first recording Id Rather Have Jesus 1951; attended North Carolina Central College 1956; left school in 1958 to join the Caravans; recorded Hallelujah, Its Done 1961; formed the Caesar Singers 1966; country and western hit Faded Roses 1980; served on the Durham City Council 1987-91; sang at the White House for President George Bush 1992; Broadway gospel musical Mama, I Want to Sing 1994; Broadway musical Sing Mama 2 1995; video Shirley Caesar Live He Will Come 1995.

Awards: Grammy for Put Your Hand in the Hand of the Man From Galilee 1971; Best Soul Gospel Performance Grammy for album Rejoice 1980; inducted into the Gospel Hall of Fame 1982; two more Grammies for Sailin 1984; NAACP Achievement Award 1987; Soul Train Best Gospel Album and sixth Grammy for Hes Working It Out for You 1992; Best Traditional Soul Gospel Grammy for Stand Still 1994.

Addresses:

Chicagos female gospel group, the Caravans, and she saw an opportunity to answer the call. She sought an audition with the group, was immediately hired, and left school for a life of singing and ministry.

The Caravans had several members who became famous in the history of gospel music: Albertina Walker, Inez Andrews, and Sarah McKissick. Each woman had a different style and Shirleys contribution was an energetic and dramatic approach where she would act out the songs and walk among the congregation, engaging the members directly. On the song I Wont Be Back, she would run through the hall searching for an exit, then leave for a brief period. Her forte was the sermon in the middle of songs that addressed the subject of the song and expounded on its theme. She exhorted the listeners toreach outtoGod and to take theexampleof Jesus. On the subject of motherhood, she was particularly effective. Her song Dont Drive Your Mama Away tells of a son who is shamed for putting his mother in the rest home.

Along the way, Shirley found a male counterpart in the singer James Cleveland and they made several records together. They became known as the King and Queen of Gospel. Shirley formed her own group in 1966 called the Caesar Singers, but she would reunite with the Caravans and the Reverend Cleveland occasionally throughout the years. In 1971, she won her first Gram-my-for the popular song Put Your Hand in the Hand of the Man from Galilee. On the night of the awards, she had returned very late from an engagement in Homer, Louisiana. People began banging on her door, and when she eventually answered, her sister Ann, one of her backup singers, shouted You won! It was the first G rammy for a black female gospel singer since Mahalia Jackson. Shirley went on to win the award in 1980, 1984, 1985, 1992 and 1994-for an astonishing total of seven Grammies.

Among her numerous honors are eight Dove awards, theGospel Music Associations highest tribute. She was inducted into the Gospel Hall of Fame in 1982. She was the first female gospel artist to perform at Harvard University. In recent years, Shirley Caesar moved into other media, making several videos: Live in Memphis, I Remember Mama, and He Will Come. Broadway found that the gospel singer could conquer a big city when Caesar packed them in for the musical Mama I Want to Sing (1994). Her second Broadway musical in 1995 was titled Sing: Mama 2. Perhaps her proudest achievement was the creation of a ministry in Durham to provide emergency funds, food and shelter for the needy, the Shirley Caesar Outreach Ministries. When Caesar ran for public office and was elected to the Durham City Council in 1987, she concentrated her efforts on housing and care for the poor and elderly.

Her biggest fan, the Rev. Harold I. Williams, whom Shirley has called my pastor, my best friend, my husband, assessed his wifes character in the 1995 video He Will Come: After twelve years, Im going tosay the same thing I said after the first year I was married to Shirley: exciting! You never know what is coming next. I mean it is exciting. It is from one thing to another. Shes an exciting person. Shes a joy to be around. Most who have seen her perform would agree.

Selected discography

Rejoice (Word/Epic) 1980.

Jesus, I Love Calling Your Name (Word/Epic) 1982

Sailin (Word/Epic) 1984.

Go (Word/Epic/Myrrh) 1984.

Celebration (Word/Epic/Myrrh) 1986.

Her Very Best (Word/Epic) 1987.

LiveIn Chicago (Word/Epic) 1988.

I Remember Mama (Word/Epic) 1989.

Hes Working It Out For You (Word/Epic) 1991.

Stand Still (Word/Epic) 1993.

Shirley Caesar Live He Will Come (Word/Epic) 1995.

The Best of Shirley Caesar with the Caravans (Savoy).

Why Me Lord (HOB).

Sources

Books

Cusic, Don, The Sound of Light: A History of Gospel Music, (1993).

Heilbut, Anthony, The Gospel Sound (1985).

Periodicals

American Gospel, March/April 1992.

Ebony, December 1988; March 1994; February 1996.

Essence, October 1990.

Jet January 8, 1990; August 26, 1991; March 9, 1992.

Journal of American Folklore, Summer 1991.

People Weekly, November 9, 1987.

Paul Anderson

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"Caesar, Shirley." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Caesar, Shirley." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/caesar-shirley

Shirley Caesar

Shirley Caesar

After hearing the voice of God during a college exam, Shirley Caesar (born 1938) believed it was her duty to spread the Gospel. This "calling" has developed into 150 concerts per year, volunteer work for the poor, numerous Grammy awards, and over 30 record albums.

With 150 concerts a year, 25 hours a week helping the poor in her Outreach Ministries, several Grammies, and 30 record albums to her credit, Shirley Caesar may seem to be a whole army of gospel singers instead of just one diminutive (5'1, 3/4") cherubic-looking woman. The "Queen of Gospel" packs a lot of wallop in her small frame. Backed by a sixty-person choir, rocking like a tempest, she is a bundle of fireworks on the Fourth of July. The gospel style of song and sermonette, singing that involves both the spoken word and dramatic acting, was developed primarily by Shirley Caesar. She journeys all over the world, sometimes traveling all night to return to her pulpit in Durham, North Carolina, the town where she was born. "It is not easy," said Shirley in her 1995 video He Will Come (Word Records), "In fact, sometimes it is downright mind-boggling. But, somehow, even though I'm wearing all of these hats, the Lord helps me to just barrel through it." Shirley has barreled through fifty years of touring and preaching, starting at age ten, and she continues to bring the house down every time she performs.

The tenth of 12 children, Shirley Caesar was born October 13, 1938. Her father James was a tobacco worker who was well-known in the Carolinas as the lead singer in a gospel quartet, the Just Came Four. Shirley began singing with the group at age ten. When she was twelve, her father died, and she began touring with an evangelist named LeRoy Johnson, who also had a television show in Portsmouth, Virginia. In 1951, at thirteen, she recorded her first song "I'd Rather Have Jesus." While still in high school, she toured throughout the Carolinas.

This was a time when Jim Crow laws were still in effect in North Carolina. Shirley remembers restaurants putting up the CLOSED sign when she would arrive. "I went to school in the days when all the white kids got things better," she told People, "I remember once when a lady gave cookies to all the kids in the state. The white kids got the fresh ones; we got the stale ones." Despite these obstacles, her beloved mother Hannah taught her to respect herself and to persevere.

Her determination took her to North Carolina Central College where she studied business education. She has said that she got the call to God's work in the middle of a typing test. According to Kim Hubbard of People, she heard someone call out her name. Shirley turned to the young woman next to her and asked if she had spoken. When Shirley went home, she lay on the bed, and heard the same voice: "Behold, I have called you from your mother's womb and I have anointed your lips to preach the gospel." Shirley believed that this was a message that foretold special work for her in spreading the Gospel. Around the same time, Shirley heard Chicago's female gospel group, the Caravans, and she saw an opportunity to answer the call. She sought an audition with the group, was immediately hired, and left school for a life of singing and ministry.

The Caravans had several members who became famous in the history of gospel music: Albertina Walker, Inez Andrews, and Sarah McKissick. Each woman had a different style and Shirley's contribution was an energetic and dramatic approach where she would act out the songs and walk among the congregation, engaging the members directly. On the song "I Won't Be Back," she would run through the hall searching for an exit, then leave for a brief period. Her forte was the sermon in the middle of songs that addressed the subject of the song and expounded on its theme. She exhorted the listeners to reach out to God and to take the example of Jesus. On the subject of motherhood, she was particularly effective. Her song "Don't Drive Your Mama Away" tells of a son who is shamed for putting his mother in the rest home.

Along the way, Shirley found a male counterpart in the singer James Cleveland and they made several records together. They became known as the "King and Queen of Gospel." Shirley formed her own group in 1966 called the Caesar Singers, but she would reunite with the Caravans and the Reverend Cleveland occasionally throughout the years. In 1971, she won her first Grammy, for the popular song "Put Your Hand in the Hand of the Man from Galilee." On the night of the awards, she had returned very late from an engagement in Homer, Louisiana. People began banging on her door, and when she eventually answered, her sister Ann, one of her backup singers, shouted "You won!" It was the first Grammy for a black female gospel singer since Mahalia Jackson. Shirley went on to win the award in 1980, 1984, 1985, 1992 and 1994—for an astonishing total of seven Grammys.

Among her numerous honors are eight Dove awards, the Gospel Music Association's highest tribute. She was inducted into the Gospel Hall of Fame in 1982. She was the first female gospel artist to perform at Harvard University. In recent years, Shirley Caesar moved into other media, making several videos: Live in Memphis, I Remember Mama, and He Will Come. Broadway found that the gospel singer could conquer a big city when Shirley packed them in for the musical Mama I Want to Sing (1994). Her second Broadway musical in 1995 was titled Sing: Mama 2 and her third in 1996 was titled Born to Sing! Mama 3. Perhaps her proudest achievement was the creation of a ministry in Durham to provide emergency funds, food and shelter for the needy, the Shirley Caesar Outreach Ministries. When Shirley ran for public office and was elected to the Durham City Council in 1987, she concentrated her efforts on housing and care for the poor and elderly.

Recently, Caesar went into the studio to help recording artist Bishop T.D. Jakes with his upcoming album, "Woman, Thou Art Loosed." The album, recorded live at Jakes' national conference in New Orleans, was released in the summer of 1997.

Her biggest fan, the Rev. Harold I. Williams, whom Shirley has called "my pastor, my best friend, my husband," assessed his wife's character in the 1995 video He Will Come: "After twelve years, I'm going to say the same thing I said after the first year I was married to Shirley: exciting! You never know what is coming next. I mean it is exciting. It is from one thing to another. She's an exciting person. She's a joy to be around." Most who have seen her perform would agree.

Further Reading

American Gospel, March/April 1992.

Ebony, December 1988; March 1994; February 1996.

Epic Center News: "<http://www.epiccenter.com/EpicCenter/docs/artistbio.qry?artistid>=235," July 17, 1997.

Essence, October 1990.

Jet, Jan. 8, 1990; Aug. 26, 1991; March 9, 1992.

Journal of American Folklore, Summer 1991.

People, November 9, 1987.

Heilbut, Anthony, The Gospel Sound (1985).

Cusic, Don, The Sound of Light: A History of Gospel Music, (1993). □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

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"Shirley Caesar." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Shirley Caesar." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/shirley-caesar

"Shirley Caesar." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/shirley-caesar