Pastor Shirley Caesar discusses her new single, 'Take Your Knee Off My Neck,' that puts a focus on George Floyd and police brutality in an exclusive interview with theGrio
The First Lady of Gospel Music isn’t just a throwaway title bestowed upon Pastor Shirley Caesar, but one earned through longevity, awards and records sold. You name it and the flamboyant singer has accomplished it throughout her seven decades-long career.
Caesar is still using her brand of anointing to be a vessel for a message. Her latest release, “Take Your Knee Off My Knee”, is a song that addresses the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality with the refrain that “enough is enough” from the gospel great. It was not only inspired by the uprising following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, but an incident where she was almost lynched while in high school.
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“These were some country white men and it was like six of us. They jumped on some but me, I ran and got away. To God be the glory. And when I think about how we’re still fighting this demonic spirit,” Caesar exclusively tells theGrio. “I made up my mind that something’s got to be done. I wanted to be one of the gospel singers who would just lend my voice to this.”
The “Hold My Mule” singer will not hold her peace and is thankful for the platform to speak out on relevant and social issues.
“I thank God for this platform that I can boldly use it, you know, because I could come and speak out against it and call them by their name, by their title, which is police [brutality]. That’s bold. But I think that somebody should do it. And I did,” she declares.
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Caesar, who started singing at the age of 10, has enjoyed an enduring and prolific connection with her fans that has spanned the generations. It has allowed her to speak with authority and conviction. Just a few years ago, one of her spirited performances became new again after the 1988 hit Hold My Mule, featuring Albertina Walker and Milton Brunson, was sampled by DJ Suede in 2016. It led to the “UNameIt” viral challenge that showcased people dancing along to the remixed tune.
“I’m hoping that Take Your Knee Off My Neck will do the same thing. Let me just tell you about that. Actually, whenever I’m on stage singing, I try to be creative. And before I know it, something, different comes out that I did not put on the recording. And I was singing Hold My Mule. That’s a song that I wrote,” she explains.
“I just said, look. Then I went into I got beans, greens, potatoes, tomatoes, lambs, rams, hogs, dogs all of that and I and never, never dreamed that a young rapper would pick it up and put it out there. Well, I was on vacation and we called home. We found out that it had gone viral. We couldn’t even believe it. I could hardly wait to get home for that.”
Caesar will once again be the center of attention as she receives the Salute THEM: Spirit Award from Café Mocha Radio (hosted by Loni Love, Yo-Yo, Angelique Perrin) on Black Friday, November 27. The celebration will be streamed.
“You know, I’m not middle of the road. I’m none of that. I’m just a gospel singer. And when somebody honors me, as far as I’m concerned, they are honoring not just me, but there are honoring the Lord. And so I thank God for my gift. And I thank God that I’m receiving this honor. Amen,” Caesar says.
Caesar, who recently celebrated her 82nd birthday, is not showing any signs of slowing down on using her unique gifts to have fellowship with her faithful fans. She is hard at work on a new album and is still preaching every Sunday. The coronavirus pandemic has upended the way of life for many but Caesar is still spreading the word through her Sunday broadcast, One Hour with Pastor Shirley Caesar.
“I have not been able to go to the building, but it has not stopped me from being in church,” she maintains.
Caesar continues, “even though I’m not able to be in the building at the church, you know, I’m always able to reach the Lord some other kind of way.”
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