“Take Your Knee Off My Neck” – Shirley Caesar

“Take Your Knee Off My Neck”
Shirley Caesar (September 11, 2020)
Shu-Bel Records/Red Alliance Media
http://smarturl.it/shirleycaesar

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

“Take Your Knee Off My Neck” is one of the most direct and impassioned calls to action for social and racial justice that Pastor Shirley Caesar has issued in song. That speaks volumes for a gospel legend whose nearly seven decades of recording stretch across many of our nation’s darkest days of bigotry, segregation, and injustice.

In the riveting single co-written with Michael Mathis, Pastor Caesar speaks frankly about George Floyd’s May 2020 “lynching in broad daylight,” during which Minneapolis police officers held him in place with a knee to his neck until he lost consciousness. Floyd’s death was followed by days of demonstrations around the country. The track opens with crowd chants of “I can’t breathe!” – the last words of too many who have died in officer-involved encounters. Caesar minces no words addressing this and related acts of police brutality.

“Take your knee off my neck!”

“Enough is enough!”

“Stop killing our sons and daughters!”

“Leave us alone!”

She speaks the names of several other victims as well: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland. The roll call of Black lives taken senselessly never ceases to stir deep emotions for me, and this context is no different. “You’re gonna reap what you’ve sowed,” Caesar warns the evildoers.

The straightforward message of “Take Your Knee Off My Neck” is driven by the song’s pulsating rhythm section. It’s an auditory evocation of trifold symbolism. Caesar’s finger is on the pulse of the times, singing pointedly about defenseless hearts that have stopped beating at the hands of their cold-hearted murderers.

Despite the circumstances that make “Take Your Knee Off My Neck” a necessary and urgent call to action, Caesar doesn’t confront the oppressors without lifting up the oppressed. “Beautiful Black people,” she sings, “hold your head up high. Don’t be ashamed of who you are. Black lives matter!”

North Carolina Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony to include performance by Shirley Caesar

 

(Kannapolis, NC)  The North Carolina Music Hall of Fame (NCMHOF) will hold its annual induction ceremony on October 17, 2019, at 7:15 PM.  The ceremony is presented by BankOZK and will take place at the historic GEM Theatre in downtown Kannapolis, NC, which was recently placed upon the official National Register of Historic Places.
 
Six are slated to perform live at the event: Kellie PicklerShirley CaesarMitch EasterElizabeth Cotten’s familyDavid Holt (on behalf of Merle Watson), and the Carolina Panthers PurrCussion drumline.  The event is open to the public and all ages will enjoy the ceremony. VIP and general admission tickets may be purchased online at www.NorthCarolinaMusicHallofFame.org or at the NCMHOF Museum.
 
Induction night will feature a pre-ceremony VIP reception, live performances, and the acceptance of each induction.  Those being inducted this year are Elizabeth Cotten, Mitch Easter, Big Daddy Kane, Merle Watson, and 9th Wonder.
 
For the first time, the NCMHOF will highlight two past inductees by featuring them along with the 2019 class.  Pastor Shirley Caesar and Kellie Pickler have been selected as the 2019 highlights.  Both were unable to attend their inductions in 2010 and 2016 respectively, due to unforeseen circumstances.
 
The NCMHOF partnered with Come Hear North Carolina and the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources for Governor Roy Cooper’s proclamation of 2019 as the “Year of Music” in North Carolina.  Earlier this year, the 2019 class was announced in a press conference with NCDCR Secretary, Susi Hamilton. This year’s ceremony will be filmed for live stream by the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
 
– From a press release
 

Franklin, Mann win at 2017 Grammys; Caesar receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Congratulations to the gospel winners at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, announced this afternoon (February 12, 2017) in Los Angeles. 

Best Gospel Performance/Song
“God Provides” – Tamela Mann; Kirk Franklin, songwriter

Best Gospel Album
Losing My Religion – Kirk Franklin

Best Roots Gospel Album
Hymns – Joey + Roey

Congratulations also to eleven-time Grammy recipient Shirley Caesar, who receives one of this year’s seven Grammy Lifetime Achievement Awards bestowed by the Academy.  Of Pastor Shirley Caesar, The Recording Academy writes, 

A deeply spiritual and affecting gospel singer, Shirley Caesar’s emotive vocal talents were discovered in a church choir when she was 10 years old. She is arguably best known for her eight-year tenure with the Chicago-based gospel group the Caravans, whom she joined after appealing to Albertina Walker to sing a solo with the group. Electing to pursue a solo career in 1966 alongside her own choir, the Caesar Singers, she subsequently carved out a profile that earned her the title of First Lady of Gospel Music. Caesar’s roll call of achievements includes 11 GRAMMY Awards®, 14 Stellar awards, 15 Dove awards, a NAACP Image Award, a Soul Train Music Award, and two current 59th GRAMMY nominations.

Caesar, 78,  enjoyed a highly successful 2016 that, in addition to this year’s Grammy nominations for her Billboard chart-topping album Fill This House, included a number one spot on the Billboard Hot Gospel Songs chart for “Hold My Mule” (as result of the viral Internet success of the “U Name It” Challenge featuring a portion of the sermonette), and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Caesar to be honored with Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award

Photo Courtesy of eOne Music

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever


The Recording Academy announced today (Dec. 19) that Shirley Caesar is the recipient of one of the seven 2017 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Awards bestowed by the Academy.  Other Lifetime Achievement Awardees are jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal, country singers Charley Pride and Jimmie Rodgers, vocalist Nina Simone, musician/songwriter Sly Stone, and rock band The Velvet Underground. 


According to a press release from The Recording Academy, “The Lifetime Achievement Award celebrates performers who have made outstanding contributions of artistic significance to the field of recording, while the Trustees Award honors contributions in areas other than performance. The recipients are determined by vote of The Recording Academy’s National Board of Trustees. Technical GRAMMY Award recipients are voted on by The Academy’s Producers & Engineers Wing® Advisory Council and Chapter Committees, and are ratified by The Academy’s Trustees. The award is presented to individuals and/or companies who have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording industry.”
Of Pastor Shirley Caesar, The Recording Academy writes, 

A deeply spiritual and affecting gospel singer, Shirley Caesar’s emotive vocal talents were discovered in a church choir when she was 10 years old. She is arguably best known for her eight-year tenure with the Chicago-based gospel group the Caravans, whom she joined after appealing to Albertina Walker to sing a solo with the group. Electing to pursue a solo career in 1966 alongside her own choir, the Caesar Singers, she subsequently carved out a profile that earned her the title of First Lady of Gospel Music. Caesar’s roll call of achievements includes 11 GRAMMY Awards®, 14 Stellar awards, 15 Dove awards, a NAACP Image Award, a Soul Train Music Award, and two current 59th GRAMMY nominations.

Caesar, 78, has enjoyed a highly successful 2016 that, in addition to the GRAMMY nominations for her Billboard chart-topping album Fill This House, has included a number one spot on the Billboard Hot Gospel Songs chart for “Hold My Mule” (as result of the viral Internet success of the “U Name It” Challenge featuring a portion of the sermonette), and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Shirley Caesar celebrates birthday, pastorate, 50-year solo career with all-star musical

Pastor Shirley Caesar (front), joined by (left to right): Melvin
Williams, LaDehra Alston, Dr. Bobby Jones, Beverly Crawford, Le'Andria Johnson, Ami Rushes, Teddy Campbell, and Tina Campbell. 
Pastor Shirley Caesar (front), joined by (left to right): Melvin
Williams, LaDehra Alston, Dr. Bobby Jones, Beverly Crawford, Le’Andria
Johnson, Ami Rushes, Teddy Campbell, and Tina Campbell. 

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

The tribute lineup read like Who’s Who in gospel music Friday evening, October 14, at Raleigh’s Mt. Calvary Word of Faith Church, where gospel’s queen Shirley Caesar is pastor.  There, a host of artists along with a crowd of over 1,000 gathered to help the pastor-singer celebrate her 78th birthday.  Caesar’s longtime friend and industry colleague, Dr. Bobby Jones, was the emcee.

The four-hour program included musical tributes from the Mt. Calvary Word of Faith Choir, mime minister Arie Pope, Ami Rushes, Melvin Williams, Teddy and Tina Campbell, Wess Morgan, Le’Andria Johnson, and Beverly Crawford.  Nieces Tammy Caesar and LaDehra Alston along with Shirley Caesar Group mainstay Bernard Sterling also honored Caesar with musical tributes.  Interspersed between the performances were humorous anecdotes, no fewer than three frenzied praise breaks, and congratulatory videos from Karen Clark-Sheard, Regina Belle, Jekalyn Carr, and Stellar Awards executive producer Don Jackson.

The honoree took the stage as the night drew to a close.  Flanked by the program participants, Pastor Caesar and the audience revisited her recent Hollywood Walk of Fame experience with video excerpts from the star dedication ceremony.  Afterward, the gospel music matriarch offered expressions of gratitude–sprinkled with humor and sermonic tuning–and treated her fans to an abbreviated version of “Jesus, I Love Calling Your Name.”

Pastor Caesar’s birthday was October 13, and Friday’s musical was the third of four services this week commemorating her birthday.  This year’s events are also in recognition of her 26th pastoral anniversary, 50-year solo music career, and star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  The celebration series culminates Sunday, October 16, at 5 PM, with a choir competition dubbed, “Battle of the Choirs.”

Dr. Bobby Jones (front) with (left to right): Bernard Sterling, Biddy Newborn, Melvin Williams, Tammy Caesar, Anthony Hill, LeDehra Alston, Beverly Crawford, Le'Andria Johnson, Ami Rushes, Teddy Campbell, Tina Campbell, Wess Morgan, and Mt. Calvary Word of Faith Choir (background). Not pictured: Arie Pope.
Dr. Bobby Jones (front) with (left to right): Bernard Sterling, Biddy Newborn, Melvin Williams, Tammy Caesar, Anthony Hill, LeDehra Alston, Beverly Crawford, Le’Andria Johnson, Ami Rushes, Teddy Campbell, Tina Campbell, Wess Morgan, and Mt. Calvary Word of Faith Choir (background). Not pictured: Arie Pope.

Fill This House – Shirley Caesar

Shirley Caesar
Fill This House (2016)
eOne Music 
 
By Libra Boyd
 
Fill This House is Pastor Shirley Caesar’s most refreshing body of musical work in recent years.  Many who bought the project, helping it debut at number one on the Billboard Top Gospel Album chart, will probably agree.
 
The album kicks off with the immediately infectious “It’s Alright, It’s OK,” featuring soulful R&B singer and fellow North Carolinian, Anthony Hamilton.  Following the opening track, she takes us straight to church with the testimony-charged “He Won’t Fail You,” praise-break inducing “Survive This” with Bishop Hezekiah Walker, and worshipful title song “Fill This House.”
 
Although head-bobbing comes standard with “Need Him Now,” the traditional-contemporary groove is the backdrop for sobering social commentary:

Look at all of the trouble today–war and killing flooding the land
You know it’s time to pray
No prayer in the schoolhouse, and wrong is right in the White House
We need Him right away…

During the last ten seconds, crank up the volume and check out some of Pastor Caesar’s wordless improvisational sweetness.
 
Having recorded more “mama” songs than perhaps any other gospel recording artist, it is entirely appropriate that Fill This House also features a matriarchal ode of sorts—this one to the historic Mother Emanuel AME Church, site of the devastating Charleston church massacre.  “Mother Emanuel,” penned by Chip Davis and Dony and Reba Rambo-McGuire, is the poignant, moving standout of the project, elevated in emotion when President Obama begins to read the names of the victims. 
 
“Prayer Works,” written by V. Mike McKay, brings Fill This House to a high energy, inspirational end and solidifies the project’s place among the great releases of 2016. 

The saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  There is certainly nothing broken or in need of a fix when it comes to the music of Pastor Caesar and the writing and production of her longtime music director, Michael Mathis.  Still, their collaborations with this project’s host of creative writers, producers, musicians, and background singers has reinvigorated the Caesar sound and brought out the best in one of the best to ever sing or preach a gospel message

I have never made such a bold prediction and do not know what the rest of the year holds for highly anticipated music releases, but I believe Fill This House may net the reigning queen of gospel Grammy number twelve. 

Favorites
“It’s Alright, It’s OK” – “Need Him Now”

Fever Meter
SWELTERIN’ (5 of 5 Stars)
 

Shirley Caesar’s Hollywood Walk of Fame Dedication set for June 28

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Pastor Shirley Caesar’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame will be dedicated during a public ceremony at 6126 Hollywood Boulevard, in front of the Fonda Theatre, on Tuesday, June 28.  As GMF reported when the honor was announced here last June, Caesar is among only a handful of black gospel music artists to have stars cemented into the famous Los Angeles walkway.

The ceremony will begin at 11:30 AM PT (2:30 PM ET) and stream live here: Shirley Caesar – Walk of Fame Ceremony.  Gospel luminaries Kirk Franklin and Yolanda Adams will speak during the 45-minute dedication.  Read more about Pastor Caesar’s upcoming star ceremony here.

Gospel music’s reigning queen, who is also a Raleigh pastor, is currently celebrating the success of her latest project, Fill This House, which debuted in the number one spot on Billboard’s Top Gospel Album chart and features the single “It’s Alright, It’s OK” with Anthony Hamilton and the tribute song “Mother Emanuel.” 

Shirley Caesar to receive star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever



Congratulations are in order for Pastor Shirley Caesar, who is named among the honorees to receive a star on the iconic Hollywood Walk of Fame.  The Hollywood Walk of Fame Class of 2016 was announced Monday (June 22) via live stream.  

The 11-time Grammy Award-winning singer, whose recording career spans well over a half century, will join only a handful of her fellow legendary Black gospel music luminaries (James Cleveland, Andraé Crouch, Mahalia Jackson, and BeBe & CeCe Winans) with the distinction of having a star cemented into the world-famous stretch that now extends along both sides of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street in Los Angeles.

Queens Caesar and Franklin, Mann, other industry greats to perform at the White House

Tamela Mann

By Libra Boyd
Gospel Music Fever

Gospel music returns to the White House this week.

Pastor Shirley Caesar, Bishop Rance Allen, Aretha Franklin, Tamela Mann, and others will perform as part of the “In Performance at the White House” series.  The ode to gospel music will take place Tuesday, April 14, and will stream live at whitehouse.gov/live at 7pm ET.

According to a press release from the Office of the First Lady, “The event will pay tribute to the fundamental role gospel music has
played in the American musical tradition and the important artists and
repertoire that have marked its vibrant history.”

If you miss Tuesday’s live stream, the concert, called “The Gospel Tradition: In Performance at the White House,” will be aired June 26, at 9pm ET, on PBS and be simulcast on TV One.
You can read the press release in its entirety here.

An Evening with Evangelist Dorothy Norwood and Pastor Shirley Caesar – April 19