In celebrating her 50th season as a solo artist and one of the most recognized names and voices, the Reigning Queen of Gospel, Pastor Shirley Caesar stands tall, committed to her journey as a humanitarian, entrepreneur and gospel singer. Armed with an arsenal of over 40 recorded albums, 12 GRAMMY® Awards, 14 Stellar Awards, 18 Dove Awards, an induction into the Gospel Hall of Fame and Hollywood Walk of Fame honoree for the class of 2016, Pastor Shirley is, “in my lane and enjoying the results of the labor.” With her latest Light Records/Entertainment One release FILL THIS HOUSE, Pastor Shirley remains “grateful for the music, the songwriters, the songs, and to be a gospel singer. I am thankful to sing for the Lord.” Executive produced by Caesar, Stanley Brown and Phil Thornton, Caesar’s rich powerhouse voice fills the album’s 11 tracks, inspiring spiritual rejuvenation and strength to persevere through tough times.
The Durham, NC native began her career recording at the age of 13 as Baby Shirley. When gospel legend and leader of the Caravans Albertina Walker became aware of the electrifying singer and performer as a college student, Caesar halted her studies to perform with the Chicago-based group over the next eight years. Pastor Shirley officially went solo in 1966 and became a legendary mainstay when her gospel version of the number one country hit “No Charge” crossed over to the R&B and pop charts in 1975 and she has continued to bless us with her gifts year after year.
As the Reigning Queen and First Lady of Gospel, Pastor Shirley is passionate about living up to her best self for the next generation. For her, the value in revering the Lord reveals itself in how one shows up as a human being. “Your life has to speak more than the song. Every song must carry a powerful meaning, because this is ministry, we are ministers and we deliver a sermon in shoes. By your fruit, you will be known.” How Pastor Shirley shows her reverence for the Lord in her personal and professional life is widely known, respected and valued within and outside of her musical ministry.
FILL THIS HOUSE was recorded with a healing ministry in mind. Pastor Shirley had come to a place in her six-decade career where “I needed something I could see and feel people being blessed by it. The song had to bring deliverance.” The jazzy up-tempo first single “It’s Alright, It’s Ok” featuring Anthony Hamilton does just that by encouraging listeners to “accept the things that we cannot change, because at the end of the day – we win.” For Pastor Shirley, to win is a mindset that delivers an understanding. “Winning does not mean that the storm will end immediately. Weeping endures for a night, but there is glory after you have gone through. All storms come to an end, and at the end of the day, it is about going through it. The Lord knows at the end of the day you win.”
The title track “Fill This House” is an anthemic sound with its bountiful melody requesting of the Lord to “let your glory fill the house.” As Pastor Shirley recalls upon hearing this track from producers Mark T. Jackson and Shannon Wainwright, “I was so spiritually filled over the song. At one point I was intimidated to record it and I asked the Lord to bring His glory so I could sing the glory in the studio. The song was so full of the anointing and the Lord blessed me to be a part of it.”
Pastor Shirley’s favorite song is a deeply personal one, “Mother Emanuel,” noting, “this song is my favorite because it teaches us forgiveness.” Having received her first honorary doctorate at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church located in Charleston, South Carolina with her mother by her side, the church was established in 1787. Produced by Sanchez G. Harley and Jacqui Whittmon, the song is impactful because of not only the church’s rich history, but the unfortunate state of events surrounding the heartbreak of the June 2015 shooting. With compelling narration provided by President Barack Obama, Pastor Shirley is resolved that her responsibility is to “sing songs that will cause us to think and then bring sunshine. This song becomes so real to me because the families have forgiven this man and it was hard for me to do so in the beginning. I have forgiven, but it is not forgotten.”
Producers Harley and Whittmon also collaborated to deliver “Prayer Works,” an uplifting and praise worthy tribute to a lifestyle of belief. As Pastor Shirley was affected by personal loss when her eldest brother transitioned a day prior to his 90th birthday, she experienced the power of prayer with her healing. “Because of prayer, it worked out for me. There are things in this life I cannot change, so we have to come to a place where we accept what the Lord allows. A problem is only a problem when you don’t know the answer. But when you know the answer, it is not a problem any longer. The answer is giving it to God in prayer because you have to believe that God is working it out in our favor.”
“Prayer Changes Things” produced by Fred “Uncle Freddie” Jerkins III is an adult contemporary song of encouragement and empowerment. As Pastor Shirley has stood at the precipice of spiritual tornados that have existed in her life, she has concluded, “prayer not only changes things, it will change you. God has to deal with you as an individual on an individual basis. You have to accept that prayer works and also accept the things that you cannot change.”
The power track is the apparent power of victory on the Michael Mathis produced “Survive This” featuring Hezekiah Walker. Pastor Shirley preached a sermon entitled “You Shall Survive This,” and as her minister of music Michael Mathis sat down to co-write this song, the result is this powerful record with its self-defining title. “At the end of the day, for me to live is Christ, and for me to die is gain. It is a win-win situation.”
As listeners continue to navigate through FILL THIS HOUSE, the lyrics, melody and message indeed deliver on the power of what Pastor Shirley has continued to reflect throughout her career – the glory belongs to the Lord and the power is to believe in Him to see you through and deliver. For Pastor Shirley Caesar, her legacy is aligned with continued excellence in her humanitarian efforts as she desires to continue to bless others because she was blessed. Because “after all these years, my life, my testimony at the end of all tribulation – we win. God has got it in control.”