Shirley Caesar. Her name alone is legendary in the gospel music industry and she is considered the reigning Queen of Gospel. 2016 marks her 50th year as an icon in the industry. Her latest single, “It’s Alright, It’s Okay” features Anthony Hamilton and is the first release from her upcoming album, Fill This House set to drop on June 3, 2016. The 2016 Hollywood Walk of Fame honoree shares with JET her passion for music and the importance of giving to the next generation.
JET: This year marks your 50th year as a gospel singer. How do you feel about where your career has been and where it’s headed?
Shirley Caesar: I am overly excited about where I have come from because I come from a long line of ‘po folk. But when I look back over my life and I see how good He has really been to me, I am excited. I am grateful to the Lord for where I am and where He’s taking me to. I don’t think that the Lord is through with me yet. This is my year girl! I’m going to claim this year. This is my year.
JET: In some ways, do you feel like you’re just beginning?
Shirley Caesar: Yes. Yes, I do. I have moved up from doing 50 concerts a year. It has grown by leaps and bounds. We’re booking 5 and 6 concerts per day. So the Lord is just wonderful.
JET: How has gospel music evolved for you as an artist?
Shirley Caesar: It has been a great evolution because I am a traditional gospel singer. I’m older than a lot of the young people out there, but I started out young just like they are now. I started out as “Baby Shirley.” Now they call me “Mama Shirley.” I’ve seen gospel music go through a metamorphosis. It has really gone from traditional to the genre now being bigger than Jazz and we’re right on the heels of Blues. Gospel music is a world within itself and I’m just glad to be numbered in that world.
JET: Tell us about your new album and what your fans can look forward to.
Shirley Caesar: We have some powerful and anointed songs. I have one on there in memory of the nine people that lost their lives in Charleston, SC. The name of the song is “Mother Emanuel.” Even though I’m singing it, whenever I listen to it, I’m sad.
JET: How to do you feel gospel music can best influence those who are searching for a relationship with God?
Shirley Caesar: Oh my. Honey, there are some powerful songs out there. A lot of times, people will listen to a song and they will not go to church or listen to a sermon. On my new CD, I have a lot of good songs that answer some of their questions and meet the needs of the people. Gospel music is the music that God recognizes because it speaks of Him. The lyrics of these songs will bring peace in the midst of the storm, bring some joy in their homes, and will help their marriages.
JET: How did you feel when you learned of being a 2016 Hollywood Walk of Fame honoree?
Shirley Caesar: Ever since I heard it, I’ve been saying “Me, me, little ‘ole me?!” Earlier today I broke down and started crying because I know where I come from. I know that I was not one of those who was likely to succeed. It’s only by the grace of God that I made up my mind that I was gonna go back to school and get my degree and prove to not only young people, but prove to mothers, that you’re never too old. I’ve got 5 G’s – Grit, Gut, Grace, God, and Gumption. I kept saying, “Me?!” I still can’t believe it.
JET: What message would you give to new school artists on the rise who are trying to build a career?
Shirley Caesar: I would tell them [to] get ready for some suffering. You’re gonna go through some things, but the Bible says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord will deliver you.” Time is going to bring you through it. But while you’re waiting on time, get ready for a little suffering.
JET: Pastor Caesar had so much more to share, but as for being the “Queen of Gospel,” she doesn’t take it lightly.
Shirley Caesar: Mahalia Jackson, as far as I’m concerned, was our reigning Queen of Gospel. I had the privilege of meeting her many years ago. I could never take her place. Using the title Queen is just like saying Bishop. If you’re going to carry these titles, then you’ve got to do something. I just want to bless these young people and do any and everything I can to help them. I’ll even go as far as to record with them. I’ll do anything to help them because the time will come when I will move on to greener pastures and they will step up in my place.
Keep up with Shirley Caesar via Facebook and at www.shirleycaesar.com.