By Larry Buford
The Grammy Award singer
says he's seen it all,
but nothing like what he's seeing now!
Says he's "hurt...; painin'...; and saddened
because our government has failed us!"
Former Rhythm & Blues singer Joe Simon - now Bishop Joe Simon, the Evangelist Ambassador of the World, for the vast Mission Consortium of Churches International (M.C.C.I.), and the World Effort Ministries (W.E.M.) - recently signed a recording agreement with Parliament Entertainment under undisclosed terms and conditions.
And as a symbolic gesture to signal a turning point in his illustrious musical career, Simon announced the release of his new Gospel CD titled "Time To Change", on Thursday, September 8th at 12:00 midday in front of Detroit's Hitsville USA (the original Motown recording studio). He analogizes the biblical "Damascus Road" experience of his pilgrimage, stating: "I haven't released a recording in 16 years because God wanted to prove me as a preacher of the Gospel."
His new CD, with background vocals by Motown's Temptations (Otis Williams' line-up), is a powerful set that showcases his unmistakable rich vocals with the fire one would expect from the pulpit. Two songs caught my immediate attention: one that reflects the mood of America right now, "There's A God Somewhere"; and the fiery "Lay My Burden Down (Glory Hallelujah)" that vamps with the strong conviction, "this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine"; are sure to be on radio play lists in no time. The CD is available in stores now.
A native of Louisiana, Simon believes the release of his CD is timely for the hope it holds for those affected by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Speaking passionately in a southern tone he says, "listen to me...I'm hurt because I'm human, painin' because we're losing a generation, and saddened because our government has let us down!" Simon has relatives and friends he still has not yet heard from since the hurricane hit. He promises that a portion of proceeds from CD sales will be earmarked for his home state, as well as Mississippi, Alabama, and other areas along the Gulf Coast. Monies will be distributed through M.C.C.I., and W.E.M.
Simon's career began at a time when gospel singers like Sam Cooke had expanded their careers into the popular music arena - an arena that offered not only a broader audience, but a bigger paycheck as well. He says, "black folks wanted inclusion in the American experience, and stepped up on the stage that would give them exposure and recognition in the mainstream. Our music was responsible for tearing down a lot of the social barriers of that day. Now with God's help, we are armed today to tear down some spiritual strongholds."
He goes on to say, "people always said the Temptations sounded like they were straight out of the church anyway, so for them to be a part of this is something special." Unlike some other singers who dally back and forth from Gospel to secular music, Simon vows to stay the Gospel course.
When asked why he never joined Motown he says, "I was courted by Holland/Dozier/Holland (the hit songwriting team responsible for many of Motown's hits), and I worked with the Motown musicians at a place called Phelp's Lounge in Detroit, but I didn't think I fit into the Motown machine. My voice was to be listened to, not danced to. I needed more care, and the fast-paced Motown didn't suit me."
Joe Simon - known for such popular hits as "Misty Blue", "Your Time To Cry", "Power Of Love", "Drowning In The Sea Of Love", and many, many others - began his music recording career in 1964. After speaking with him about his journey, and looking at a picture of him displaying the cover of his new CD, with the old Motown recording studio in the background, it truly appears Joe Simon has put the world behind him, and has no intention of turning back.
1. Time To Change
2. Lay My Burden Down
3. It's On World Order It's Strong
4. I Will Never Forget
5. There's A God Somewhere
6. I'm Not Making This Up
7. Number 23
8. Certainly Lord I Love Everybody
9. Glad You Came My Way
10. Time To Change (remix)
11. There's A God Somewhere (remix)
12. Number 23 (remix)