By Jonathan Landrum Jr.
LOS ANGELES — Shirley Caesar used to refuse to infuse contemporary styles with her traditional gospel sound, but now 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’s 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 such as Kurt Carr and James Fortune as producers to weave a modern, radio-friendly style into her sound.
Caesar sat down with The Associated Press recently to talk about her resurgence in gospel, how she bounced back after a slumping economy and her thoughts
on the direction of gospel music.
AP: 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?
Caesar: 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.
AP: How were you able to stay current?
Caesar: 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.
AP: 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?
Caesar: 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
AP: The economy was slumping around the time you released “A City Called Heaven” in 2009. How did that affect you?
Caesar: 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.
AP: You’ve been more active lately, like with your appearance on BET’s “Celebration of Gospel.” What do you attribute to your resurgence?
Caesar: 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 pleases God, even his enemy could be at peace with him. Whatever the enemy is, God says he’ll turn it around.
AP: What steps did you take to stay faithful?
Caesar: 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.
AP: How long do you think you’ll be performing?
Caesar: 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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