Shirley Caesar,”Live in Chicago” Release date: 1988
Shirley Caesar (born October 13, 1938 in Durham, North Carolina) is an American Gospel music singer, songwriter and recording artist whose career has spanned six decades. A multi-award winning artist, with eleven Grammy awards and seven Dove awards to her credit, she is known as “The First Lady of Gospel Music.” She is a graduate of Shaw University with a degree in Business Administration. She also received an honorary doctorate from Shaw University and another one from Southeastern University.
Beginning her recording career in 1951, Pastor Shirley has since recorded over forty albums, exploring her gift and spreading messages of faith. She has participated in over 16 compilations and three gospel musicals, Mama I Want to Sing, Sing: Mama 2, and Born to Sing: Mama 3. Her credits also include a series of commercials for MCI Communications and several awards for her recordings. She has been awarded 11 Grammy Awards, 13 Stellar Awards, 18 Doves, 1 RIAA gold certification, an Essence Award, McDonald’s Golden Circle Lifetime Achievement Award, NAACP Achievement Award, SESAC Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. According to Soundscan, she has sold 2.2 million albums since 1991. Pastor Shirley has made several notable appearances including the televised Live from Disney World Night of Joy, the Gospel According to VH-1, a White House performance for George Bush, and a speech on the Evolution of Gospel Music to the US Treasury Departmen.
At the age of 10, Caesar began singing and performing for family and friends. While she first began recording in 1951, her professional adult ‘career’ began at 18 when she approached Albertina Walker about joining The Caravans. She sang with Dorothy Norwood , Inez Andrews , Delores Washington, and James Cleveland in the Caravans. She recorded and performed with The Caravans from 1958 until 1966 when she began pursuing a solo career and making a name for herself in the gospel music circuit. Caesar credits Albertina Walker as her mentor. After singing with the Caravans, Shirley started her solo career, making guest appearances on the Bobby Jones gospel show and other popular television shows.
Caesar has received numerous awards for her gospel albums. She has received eleven Grammy Awards, for recordings including Stand Still, Shirley Caesar Live…, He Will Come, Sailin’, Rejoice, Celebration and He’s Working It Out For You. Between 1981 and 1995 she received seven Dove Awards for Black Gospel Album of the Year for Live at the G.M.W.A., Live…In Chicago, Celebration, Christmasing, Sailin’, Go and Rejoice. She has also received two Black Gospel Song of the Year Awards for “He’s Working It Out for You” and “Hold My Mule.” Over a dozen Stellar awards. She is respected as The “first lady of gospel” by many (behind Albertina Walker). She has performed or recorded with many of the greats in gospel and mainstream music such as: Patti Labelle, Whitney Houston, Dorothy Norwood, Faith Evans, Dottie Peoples, Kim Burrell, John P. Kee, and Tonex (for whom she also performed a rap), just to name a few. Gospel singers, Dorinda Clark and Dottie Peoples consider her to be their role model in music.
Caesar graduated from Shaw University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration in 1984. She also received honorary doctorates from Shaw University and Southeastern University.
Caesar pastors a church in Raleigh, North Carolina that seats 1500. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and has been married to her husband Bishop Harold Williams since 1983. “I never dreamed the Lord would bring my ministry to where it is, and I feel that I have not yet reached the zenith because we’ve got such wonderful things planned!” She sites her mother as a strong influence in her decision to give so selflessly of herself. The pastor has committed a sizeable portion of all concert sales to her Outreach Ministries. She continues to deliver weekly sermons and also leads an annual Outreach Ministries conference. She notes, “I cannot sweeten the Atlantic Ocean, but I can take a pitcher out of the ocean and sweeten that.” With a schedule that includes recording, performing, and ministering, Pastor Shirley constantly finds ways to spread messages of love and encouragement.
She has no children of her own. She supported Barack Obama in the 2008 elections, and said at her church, after his victory, “God has vindicated the black folk”. She is a much sought after Evangelist and psalmist.
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