Shirley Caesar
Birth Date:
October 13, 1938
Birth Place:
Durham, North Carolina, USA
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First Lady of Gospel


Singer, songwriting and recording artist Shirley Caesar has been in the Gospel music industry since 1951. She is also known as “First Lady of Gospel” and has obtained numerous awards, including 11 Grammy Awards, 18 Dove Awards and 13 Stellar Awards. She also received the McDonald's Golden Circle Lifetime Achievement Award, NAACP’s Achievement Award and the SESAC Lifetime Achievement Award, in addition to becoming an inductee of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Caesar has released more than 40 albums and taken part in nearly 20 compilations. She performed on Broadway in the gospel musicals “Mama I Want to Sing,” “Sing: Mama 2” and “Born to Sing: Mama 3.” She is an active pastor in Raleigh, North Carolina.


Childhood and Family:

Shirley Ann Caesar was born on October 13, 1938, in Durham, North California. She began singing and performing in front of her family and friends at age 10. She graduated from Shaw University with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration in 1984. She also earned honorary doctorates from Shaw University and Southeastern University.

Shirley married her Bishop husband, Harold Williams, on June 26, 1983. She is a pastor in a church in Raleigh, North Carolina, and a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

He's Working It Out For You


As a child singer, Shirley Caesar was referred to as “Baby Shirley.” Her professional adult career began when she was 18 years old. She joined the famed gospel group The Caravans in 1958, but quit to launch a solo career in 1966. After she left the group, the group's popularity gradually began to decline. During her stint with The Caravans, she sang with Dorothy Norwood, Inez Andrews, Delores Washington and James Cleveland.

Caesar quickly made a name for herself in the gospel music circuit thanks to hit singles like “God Is Good,” “Revive Us Again,” “Time to Be Blessed” and “Hold My Mule,” to name a few. Her more recent credits include “Live in Chicago” (1988), “I Remember Mama” (1992), “He's Working It Out For You (1993), “Stand Still” (1994), “Live...He Will Come” (1995), “Just A Word” (1996), “Miracle In Harlem” (1997), “Christmas with Shirley Caesar” (1998), “Hymns” (2001), “You Can Make It” (2001), “Shirley Caesar & Friends” (2003), “I Know The Truth” (2005), “Still Sweeping Through The City After 40 Years” (2009) and “A City Called Heaven” (2009).

Caesar has collected many awards for her gospel albums. She nabbed 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 won two Black Gospel Song of the Year Awards for “Hold My Mule” (1987) and “He's Working It Out for You” (1993) and received Grammy Awards for “Stand Still,” “Shirley Caesar Live...He Will Come,” “Sailin',” “Rejoice,” “Celebration” and “He's Working It Out For You.”

Caesar has made guest appearances on television many times and appeared in such series, specials or movies as the “Lou Rawls Parade of Stars” (1988-1989), “The 38th Annual Grammy Awards” (1996), “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” (1998) and “The Fighting Temptations” (2003). She has performed with a number of artists, including Whitney Houston, Kim Burrell, Patti LaBelle, Arnold Houston, Faith Evans, Dottie Peoples, and John P. Kee. Recent soundtracks she worked on include “Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan” (2006) and “Sunday Best” (2007, television series). Caesar has also appeared on Broadway and was seen in “Mama I Want to Sing,” “Sing: Mama 2” and “Born to Sing: Mama 3.”


  • Grammy Awards: 11, including Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album (2000, 1999, 1995 and 1992), Best Soul Gospel Performance - Female (1985 and 1984) and Best Soul Gospel Performance - Contemporary (1981)

  • Stellar Awards: 13

  • Dove Awards: 18, including Traditional Gospel Album of the Year (2001, 2000, 1997, 1996, 1994, 1988, 1986, 1985, 1981 and 1980)

  • McDonald's Golden Circle Lifetime Achievement Award

  • NAACP Achievement Award

  • SESAC Lifetime Achievement Award

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