A popular gospel singer who often shouts her music in order for her messages to be received, Shirley Caesar performed with the Caravans in the '60s before pursuing a professional solo career in 1966. Born in North Carolina, Caesar is known as the First Lady of Gospel. At the age of 10, she began singing and performing for family and friends. She 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. Her professional career began in the '60s when she was with the Caravans. In 1966, she began making a name for herself on the gospel music circuit.
Caesar performs with an energetic and boisterous style. She believes that with all the suffering and hardships in the world, people will listen to her recordings and be encouraged. Her live album, He Will Come, is a testimony to her philosophy of life. The album was recorded with the choir, band and congregation of her church. In the title song "He Will Come," Caesar transcends the message of hope, that although society is getting worse, the Lord will save us. Among her other gospel hits with inspiring messages are "God Is Good," "Revive Us Again," and "Time to Be Blessed." Caesar's hope is that her messages will be listened to and people will be encouraged to lead good lives. Her 1987 hit, "Hold My Mule," was written to encourage people to "fight the good fight." All her songs combine music with ministry to convey her messages.
Caesar has received numerous awards for her gospel albums. She has received Grammy Awards for 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. Two Black Gospel Song of the Year Awards for "He's Working It Out for You" and "Hold My Mule."
Besides being the minister of her church in North Carolina and performing concerts nationwide, Caesar has performed on Broadway. Her Broadway performances include roles in Born to Sing: Mama 3, Mama I Want to Sing, and Sing: Mama 2. She made a guest appearance at the 25th anniversary of Walt Disney World with fellow artists Peabo Bryson, CeCe Winans, Regis Philbin, and Kathie Lee Gifford. Her activities include performing for President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton at a campaign function. Despite her busy schedule, Caesar constantly finds time to get her messages of encouragement and peace to people. ~ Kim Summers