Shirley Caeser preaches as well as sings gospel, here in a North Carolina church.

Jim R. Bounds , Associated Press

'Queen of Gospel' takes a new direction

  • Article by: JONATHAN LANDRUM Jr.
  • Associated Press
  • May 26, 2013 - 1:25 PM

– Shirley Caesar used to refuse to infuse contemporary styles with her traditional gospel sound, but the 11-time Grammy winner and pastor has changed her stance.

Caesar, who is known as the “Queen of Gospel,” is singing to a different tune on her new solo album, “Good God,” released last week. It had been four years since she dropped an album, giving her time to embrace a new musical approach.

The 74-year-old brought on up-and-comers Kurt Carr and James Fortune as producers to weave a modern, radio-friendly style into her sound.

Caesar recently spoke about her resurgence in gospel, bouncing back after a slumping economy and the direction of gospel music.


Q: You have recorded more than 40 albums and have had a traditional sound on all of them. What compelled you to switch up the vibe on your new album?

A: Songs that made me popular like “Hold My Mule” and “Drive Your Mama Away” — they were good for me in that season. I still sing them today, but that’s not the kind of gospel that radio is pushing now. I had to listen to what’s going on now, and pick up on it.


Q: How were you able to stay current?

A: I finally started to watch what everybody else is doing, what they are playing and not playing. Then I had to try my best to be right down the middle of the road. … I had to start singing with younger singers, having young producers like Kurt Carr and a writer like James Fortune. Because of it, I’m able to stay current.


Q: You’ve said in the past that you didn’t understand the contemporary gospel style. Since you have worked with newbie gospel artists, what do you think of the genre’s direction now?

A: I think they are awesome. There are more young men singing today. Before, women kind of dominated. Now young men are doing it. I like where it’s going.


Q: The economy was slumping around the time you released “A City Called Heaven” in 2009. How did that affect you?

A: At first, it was hard. No concerts. The offerings at the church dropped; my tithes dropped. Then all of a sudden God turned things around. He has turned it around. I’m so grateful. I’m getting so many calls now for dates to come and sing. … And I’m not talking about cheap dates. I’m talking about big dates.


Q: You’ve been more active lately, like with your appearance on BET’s “Celebration of Gospel.” What do you attribute to your resurgence?

A: I believe God has given me another chance. He’s not a God of a second chance, but a God of another chance because I’ve used up my second, third and so forth. … When a man’s ways please God, even his enemy could be at peace with him. Whatever the enemy is, God says he’ll turn it around.


Q: What steps did you take to stay faithful?

A: I had to be obedient, and God knows I’m willing to be a voice in the community. I know that a lot of the older singers like myself won’t be on top forever, so you have to prepare for war in the time of peace.


Q: How long do you think you’ll be performing?

A: I tell the young folk that every time you look over your shoulder, you’re going to see me. I ain’t going nowhere — until the Lord says so.

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