CALVIN SIMON BIO
“IT’S NOT TOO LATE”
Available Now at Digital Music Outlets
Calvin Simon thought his singing career was over for good. Following vocal issues, the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and after having his thyroid removed, his renowned music career became a distant memory. Yet, one night through a vivid dream, God showed him it’s never too late to serve Him with your gifts and talents.
Simon’s career originated in the backroom of a New Jersey barber shop. In the late 1950s, he joined friends George Clinton, Ray Davis, Fuzzy Haskins and Grady Thomas to form doo-wop group The Parliaments, best known for their hit song “(I Wanna) Testify.” Evolving with the popular music of the times, the quintet found a niche in R&B, funk and soul and eventually changed its name to simply Parliament Funkadelic in the ’70s. Over the course of two decades, the group—best known for their hit song “(I Wanna) Testify”—released 15 Gold and seven Platinum albums. Later on, Simon and three of the group’s founding members formed a new band, which they called Original P.
“We went to No. 1 in the world, but I was serving a different master,” Simon explains, before adding, “Now, I’m serving the right master.”
Though he grew up attending church in Beckley, West Virginia, it wasn’t until he endured open heart surgery that he turned his life over to Christ. “I had promised the Lord that if I made it through that I was going to spend the rest of my days serving Him,” he says. After a successful surgery, he went home and straight to the church of his childhood. “In the church that morning is where I gave my life to Jesus Christ,” he shares. “Since then, I’ve been living my life and dedicating it to Christ. He’s brought me through a whole lot.”
After launching his own production and recording company, Par Golf Music Productions and Simon Sayz Recordings, respectively, Simon entered the studio in 2004 to record his first solo gospel album, Share The News. It was shortly after the project reached No. 21 on Billboard’s Gospel Albums chart that the singer was diagnosed with cancer. Subsequent promotion of the album and an upcoming tour were called off. “I thought that it was done,” he admits of his career. “After I had the surgery, I didn’t think about writing anymore. I didn’t think about singing anymore. I didn’t think about playing anymore. I was retired and enjoying golf and just enjoying life.”
He had barely recovered physically from his surgery when his wife of 44 years was diagnosed with bone cancer. Although she passed away in 2013, Simon faithfully remained by her side during her illness. “I knew she needed me,” he says, “and whatever time we had left I wanted to be able to spend with her.”
After years of personal hardships, Simon’s zest for music was rekindled late one night. “I was kind of wandering around, looking up in the air for a couple years; but then all of a sudden, everything became clear to me with this project. I feel blessed and honored that this album was given to me and that God thought enough of me to trust me with this project,” he explains. “This is a very special project, and it came to me in the form of a dream. From that dream—those lyrics and the image that was put into my brain—that’s how this whole CD came about.”
With a renewed motivation for writing, the songs poured out quickly. In an astounding nine weeks, It’s Not Too Late was born from conception to completion. The title was fitting considering Simon hadn’t used his voice since 2004. The album re-birthed a fresh passion for life and music within the legend.
“All I did for two-and-a-half months was eat, sleep, write and be in the studio and play. It was like I was on a mission to get it done,” he reveals. “Each song, to me, has a special message because I want the whole world to know that the way to eternal life is through Jesus Christ.”
The eight tracks that comprise It’s Not Too Late blend the beloved funk and jazz of The Parliaments with smooth gospel elements. The title track, “Needing Someone (It’s Not Too Late),” serves as the lynchpin for the entire collection both sonically and lyrically with Simon singing, “Don’t hesitate / It’s not too late to ask Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior.”
“The Holy One” follows with a straightforward presentation of the Gospel. “He died on the cross for all of us, and that’s our outlet to have guaranteed life—eternal life. It’s so simple; it’s not complicated. We make it complicated,” Simon concedes. “Simplicity is the key. It’s very, very simple; and it’s two things you have to do. No. 1, you’ve got to ask Him to come into your life; and no. 2, you have to have faith.”
Meanwhile, “Jesus Is a Friend of Mine” reveals the intimate nature of a relationship with Christ. “I want everybody to know it’s a very personal thing,” Simon says. “I can call Him up and talk to Him any time.”
Standout track “A Soldier’s Story,” co-written with Marty McCarrick, pulls from a different chapter in Simon’s life when he served in Vietnam. As a disabled veteran, he suffered from PTSD, and the original cut recounts his experience in an effort to speak to current military personnel and war veterans who have recently returned home and find themselves lost as they rejoin civilian life.
“I realized that some of the young guys coming back from the Middle East were committing suicide and didn’t know how to handle that post traumatic syndrome. That’s some pretty serious stuff, and when you are a soldier, you are commanded to go and do your duty, and sometimes your duty is pretty horrific,” he reveals. “War is a terrible, terrible thing. That’s why I wrote the song, to let the soldiers know that they weren’t the only ones who had to fight an enemy they couldn’t see.”
Simon also draws on his time serving his country for the closing track “I Am A Soldier,” claiming it “relates to my image of being a soldier fighting for the red, white and blue.” He beautifully outlines the metaphor comparing a Christian’s allegiance to that of a serviceman. “I’m a solider now in the army of Jesus Christ,” he maintains. “I’m going to be preaching the Word for the rest of my days because He’s my commander in chief, and I’m following His orders.”
If anything is clear on It’s Not Too Late, it’s the fact that Simon is committed to following the leader of God’s army, as well as sharing the Gospel with everyone he encounters. He may have an impressive past and a vibrant personal history, but His story is laced with the kindness and grace of the Savior he serves.
“There’s not a drug on the market that can make you feel the way I feel today, and that’s because of the love of Jesus Christ. I want to share that news with the world,” Simon attests. “Most of all, I just want people to feel and hear the sheer joy of my life and my relationship with Jesus.”
As for the music itself, while Simon undoubtedly shares a personal affinity for each track he penned, he hopes there’s at least one song with which each listener will find an immediate connection. “The one thing I would like to say to anyone who listens to this music is just enjoy it, because there’s a message, and I just feel that the anointing is in there. It was made to touch somebody,” he says with confidence.
He’s certain there’s purpose to be found in this next, unexpected chapter of his music career. He’s grateful God isn’t finished with him, and he’s happy to leave the future in His hands. “I’ve done my job by bringing this album from the dream to reality,” he says, “but where it goes from here, God only knows.”