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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.
Shirley Ann Caesar-Williams, known professionally as Shirley Caesar (born October 13, 1938, Durham, North Carolina) is an American Gospel music singer, songwriter and recording artist whose career has spanned over six decades. A multi-award winning artist, with eleven Grammy Awards and seven Dove Awards to her credit, she is known as "First Lady of Gospel Music".
Beginning recording at the age of 13 in 1951, Shirley Caesar has released 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 won or received 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 VH1, a White House performance for George Bush, and a speech on the Evolution of Gospel Music to the US Treasury Departmentbooks.google.com Billboard.com "Shirley Caesar AOL Music bio". AOL Music. Retrieved 2008-05-10. "Caesar's awards"
Caesar first began singing and performing for family and friends. They loved her and knew she was going to be great. She first began recording in 1949, at age 11. Her professional adult 'career' began when she was 18, when she approached Albertina Walker about joining The Caravans, one of the most popular gospel groups at that time.
She sang with Dr. Albertina Walker, Cassietta George, Dorothy Norwood, Inez Andrews, Delores Washington and James Cleveland while in the Caravans. She recorded and performed with The Caravans from 1958 until 1966. Thereafter she began pursuing a solo career and making a name for herself in the gospel music circuit, making guest appearances on the Bobby Jones gospel show and other popular television shows. Caesar credits Albertina Walker as her mentor and "Queen of Gospel Music".
Between 1981 and 1995, she received seven Dove Awards for Black Gospel Album of the Year for Live at the G.M.W.A., Celebration, Christmasing, Sailin‘, Live ... In Chicago, Go and Rejoice. She received two Black Gospel Song of the Year Awards for "He's Working It Out for You" and "Hold My Mule". She has performed with such performers as Patti LaBelle, Whitney Houston, Dorothy Norwood, Faith Evans, Dottie Peoples, Arnold Houston, Kim Burrell, John P. Kee, Kirk Franklin and Tonex, Tye Tribbett among others. Shirley Caesar is also an actress. She acted in Fighting Temptations with Beyonce Knowles and Cuba Gooding Jr.
Caesar was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2010."2010 Inductees". North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved September 10, 2012.
Caesar graduated from Shaw University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration in 1984. She also spent time studying at the Divinity School of Duke University and has received honorary doctorates from Shaw University and Southeastern University.
Caesar pastors the 1,500-member Mount Calvary Word of Faith Church in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband, Bishop Harold I. Williams (deceased). She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and had been married to her husband Bishop Harold Williams since 1983. Bishop Harold Williams passed away on July 4, 2014. "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 cites her mother as a strong influence in her decision to give so selflessly of herself. The pastor has committed a sizable 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.""ABOUT OUR PASTORS". Mt. Calvary Word of Faith Church. Retrieved July 30, 2012.