Shirley Caesar Receives Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame
Standing barely over five feet tall, Shirley Caesar comes in a small package. But don’t let her petite frame fool you. Her voice is bold and soulful. Her performances are electrifying. Her presence is powerful and her calling is to spread the gospel.
What the people close to her emphasize most, however, is that she is not just a great gospel singer, but a great human being as well. Her music is often described as energetic and dramatic, but her persona is often described as kind, generous, and loving. What they want you to know more than anything is that her influence extends far beyond music.
On June 28, Shirley Caesar was honored in front of the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Caesar, 77, celebrates her 50th anniversary as a solo gospel artist this year.
“I think this is simply awesome,” Caesar said. “This is a brand new beginning for my life. The first of June, I had a brand new CD come out. It came out at number one and I’m just so grateful. I was saying that I had Grammys and things like that, but never would I have thought that I would one day have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. God is good to me.”
Among her accomplishments are 11 Grammy Awards, 14 Stellar awards, 18 Dove Awards, and an induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1982. With over 40 albums recorded to date, Caesar has earned the title of “The Reigning Queen of Gospel.” She has also performed for every United States president since Jimmy Carter.
Some of her biggest hits are “I Remember Mama,” “Hold my Mule,” “No Charge,” and “He’s Working It Out For You.” She has performed on Broadway, television, and her music has been featured in films such as “The Preacher’s Wife” and “Rosewood.”
Caesar began touring when she was 12 with Evangelist Leroy Johnson and recorded her first single, “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” in 1951 at the age of 13. Her stage name at the time was “Baby Shirley.”
She was later discovered by lead singer Albertina Walker of the Caravans while in college. Walker asked her to join the Caravans and Caesar placed her education on hold to perform with the Chicago-based group for eight years.
In 1966 she began her solo career. She would come to be known for breaking barriers between genres when her gospel cover of the country music hit “No Charge,” originally performed by Tammy Wynette, crossed over to the R&B charts in 1975. This recognition opened the door for gospel singers to go mainstream.
At the ceremony, gospel recording artist Yolanda Adams talked about how deserving Caesar was of the star on the Walk of Fame. “This star lets the world know how awesome she is,” Adams said. “It goes beyond being an artist – she is just a great person. When you find great people, you hold on to them, you keep them close, you pray for them, and you never let them go. I’m never letting her go.”
Caesar’s music has inspired multiple generations of musicians and aspiring artists, one of them being filmmaker Devon Franklin. “She has raised me from afar,” Franklin said. “When I was a kid, every time I heard her songs “No Charge” and “Hold My Mule,” it helped me in my faith.”
Gospel recording artist Marvin Winans said, “Growing up, I saw her from afar watching her do what she does. It’s just been an inspiration because she’s always had so much vitality, youth, passion, and she’s done it with such an upstanding example. Hopefully, this star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame can inspire people to continue to do what she did, and that’s preach the gospel, exalt God, and live the life, not just sing it. That’s who she is to me.”
Guest speaker and gospel recording artist Kirk Franklin who, along with his wife Tammy, calls Caesar “Mama Shirley,” spoke affectionately about her. “She continues to be a pillar for the genre,” he said. “She continues to be a groundbreaking woman who pushes the bars of excellence and quality, and I’m so proud to be a part of her life. She’s Mama Shirley.”
Today, Caesar continues to push boundaries and bridge the gap between Gospel and mainstream music. She serves as pastor of Mount Calvary Word of Faith Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her outreach ministry, Shirley Caesar Outreach Ministries, provides food, clothing, and emergency assistance to those in need.
Her influence extends far beyond music because of her genuine love, passion and commitment to helping others. While her star on the Walk of Fame was awarded because of her musical accomplishments, those close to her would say that her deeds in everyday life are what make her a true star.