LOOK! Gospel Singer Shirley Caesar Is Now a Pop Culture Phenomenon

Posted November 18, 2016 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

The #UNameItChallenge has got everyone singing about the good news of Shirley Caesar

In the world of social media, it doesn’t take long for something to go viral. Especially if it’s attached to a catchy hashtag and some clever do-it-yourself challenge.

Two weeks ago, the Mannequin Challenge was the rage. Now it’s about gospel singer Shirley Caesar rapping about “beans, greens, potatoes, tomatoes…chickens, turkeys” on a blazing 20-second club track just in time for Thanksgiving.

What? Rewind that back.

Yes. You read it correctly. But let me clarify something. This isn’t a new track off of a Caesar album nor is this some product that’s readily available on iTunes or any other digital retailer. Music producer DJ Suede whipped out a hip-hop remix of a talking segment taken from 2007’s After 40 Years…Still Sweeping Through the City and like a California forest fire in the summertime, spreaded across the World Wide Web terrain with a fierce gusto.

One of its funniest memes, now sporting dozens of variations, was tagged with clips from popular videos from TV sitcom Martin, Beyoncé’s halftime show performance and funny moments ranging from Whitney Houston “catching the Holy Ghost” at an awards show and Jenifer Lewis “falling out in the Spirit,” a scene ripped from the funny motion picture Dirty Laundry. All this is happening as Caesar’s voice is being looped in the background, telling all the many blessings of Shoutin’ John before shouting out “You name it!”
And that is where the challenge begins. The “UNameItChallenge” that is. So far, people across social media have uploaded their own take of the mix, splicing together scenes from their own world of comedy while either dancing with club fervor (Chris Brown) or lipsyncing to Caesar word by word, like the one below.

There’s no telling how many times the video has been watched since many have downloaded and uploaded to their own accounts. The _icomplexity post featuring “Grandma, what are you cooking for Thanksgiving?” as a header was uploaded by popular gay vlogger Chris Crocker and has been viewed over seven million times. That clip was also shared more than 184,000 times on Facebook.

 So what did the certified Queen of Gospel think of this new sweep of viral sensation attributed to her name? She’s loving it. On Wednesday, she joined in the Willie Moore Jr. syndicated radio show to comment to comment on all the attention she’s getting now. “I was in the middle of the ocean and one of the members of my church showed it to me.” When asked what she thought about her influence on the younger generation and all the hype surrounding the clip, Caesar remarked with gratefulness.” I am, but you know, it’s so strange I’ve been doing it for years. I was shocked to see it.”
“You’re about to be number one on the Hip-Hop charts this week,” Moore later remarked.

Technically, she’s not. Although Nielsen SoundScan, who handles the coveted surveys of the Billboard charts, now registers data coming from streaming and even YouTube plays, the song itself must be commercially available for purchase and must be registered with SoundScan. The clip isn’t even long enough to be considered a song, actually (Suede did upload a 1:49 version on his Soundcloud account, now reaching over 10,000 listens). And because there’s no revenue being made on the mix, Caesar, an eleven-time Grammy winner, is not guaranteed to make one red cent off of it — unless fans purchase commercially-available versions of “Hold My Mule.” As of now, the remixed song isn’t available for purchase at digital online sources, but with all the demand behind it and as Thanksgiving draws closer, it could very well happen.

Prior to the 2000 live re-recording, the original “Hold My Mule” surfaced in 1988 on the Dove Award-winning Live in Chicago and quickly became a popular standard in her live shows. It’s legend was only enhanced when remixed by house music DJ David “DDK” Kennedy. “You Don’t Want Me to Dance (In Your Church)” was played in many of the gay clubs throughout Chicago and Atlanta.

During a recent video conferencing session with Caesar, TMZ asked the gospel veteran about all the online ruckus surrounding the memes, she’s grateful. “It’s mind boggling. I’m not used to this.” But she did address one bit of concern. “I can even put up with the dancing, but all of the [gyrations] and shaking and twerking…I just want everybody to know that I am a godly gospel singer and a pastor, and I don’t ever want anything [like that] to bring a reflection on what I stand for.”


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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