Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member and one of the original founding members of the funk, soul group Parliament Funkadelic, Calvin Simon, releases his latest solo Gospel album, It's Not Too Late.
The project was produced by Simon and features eight new songs written and performed by the talented artist. The record features such heartfelt ballads as "Needing Someone (It's Not Too Late)" and "A Soldiers Story," with the latter tune having special meaning for Simon since he is a war veteran. But time hasn't diminished Simon's "funk" side with songs like "Jesus Is A Friend Of Mine," "Sorrow Street," and "Power Of Love." It's Not Too Late is now available online at all digital music outlets.
Q You have had great success for over 2 decades in secular music. As I was reading your biography, you mentioned that you were serving a different master then, now you are serving the Master. Who was the master you were serving those days? And what was the price you had to pay to serve this master?
"To answer your question about the two masters, early on I became aware I was blessed with a God given gift of voice and music, but like so many, without much thought, I allowed the earthly diversions to take control of my path. There were five of us who started together, but the lure of fame, fortune, and vanity soon corrupted our plan and left the group, as a whole, in a dark place. I believe that success, money and fame affects people in different ways, and not necessarily good ones. This was especially true of the group itself. We started out as five with a common cause and for 25 years we worked building something. Then somewhere in the process of becoming successful, we had lawyers, managers and the general sophistication of the business convince one of the five that they were somehow more than the rest of us and 'we' were no longer needed. This notion became too hard to deal with, to a point that I was in the process of getting ready to kill my brother. It was in this moment that I came to the realization I was following the master of darkness. Once my eyes were opened and I held myself accountable, it was so easy to see the right path and make the right choices. Now I am serving the master of light, which is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
"I paid a tremendous price for the years I spent on the wrong path. My family suffered because of what I was doing. I lost touch with so many people that were important in my life. I came close to losing my faith, not only with other people, but in myself. There was a void for years, which no amount of fans, drugs or lifestyle could ever hope to fill. It was not until I turned back to Jesus Christ, and accepted him as my Lord and Savior, that I truly became whole again."
Q: What made you turn from secular music to Gospel music?
"In the process of planning to commit murder, as I mentioned above, would have been easy for me to do. You see, as a Veteran of the Vietnam War, I was trained to do that as a soldier. Kill the enemy without question. Dealing with ongoing PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) and dealing with so much loss as a result of the fighting, my mind allowed the betrayal by a fellow band member turn him into an enemy."
"I drove from Toronto (Canada) to Detroit Mich. on a particularly bad day to talk to one of the other members of the group, with the intent to tell him my plan. His name was 'Fuzzy' Haskins, and he was one of the few people I still trusted. We talked all afternoon, but I never could explain to him what I was really thinking. After several hours, I was getting ready to leave to go back to Toronto where I was living at the time. Still in complete confusion and still holding to the idea there was only one option, Fuzzy walked me out to the porch and he told me hold on for minute. He told me, 'Cal, I know you are troubled about something and it is weighing heavily on you, but take this book with you and when you get a chance read it.' The name of the book was, "The Miracle of Seed Faith," by Oral Roberts."
"I took the book with little thought for it. I drove four hours back to Toronto, still intent on doing what I was programmed to do to enemies. I walked into my house, laid down on the couch and was getting ready to smoke a joint when I saw the book Fuzzy had given me. I picked it up, started looking at the liner notes and something in the notes resonated. I put the joint down and started reading. The next thing I knew, I had read the whole book, including the lessons, and it changed my life starting that day."
Q: You have endure quite a few trials along the way, including an open heart surgery and a bout with cancer. Tell us more about some of your trials? And how did they draw you towards Christ?
"I have always believed, because of my praying grandmother who made sure I understood what Jesus Christ did and why He died for us. Although I would tend to stray sometimes, it would never be too far from my thoughts."
"I recall one time in Vietnam, my job was to patrol the Mekong Delta river. You swim in the same water you defecate in, and where you washed your clothes. Everything became centered around that river. While setting up to do a mission, I was cleaning myself up and being 6 foot 5 inches thinking 'what a good target I make.' In that instant, a bullet breezed by my head. I could feel and hear the rotation of it as it went by my ear, and just as quickly my God sense said get down! Though the damage to my ear was irreversible, I walked away that day due to that God sense that seemed to prevail in times of great need. This is just one memory of how Jesus Christ has brought me through tough spots. I could fill volumes with such stories, and though I still suffer from PTSD to this day and some things are hard to talk about, my belief in Jesus Christ has always and continues to see me through."
"I suppose I have had my shares of trials, but we all have tests and tribulations throughout our lives. I suspect there will be more in the future, but I consider Jesus a friend. I have no problem asking Him for help when these bad times occur, but want to stress the importance of the other side of this relationship I have with my Father. I praise Him for all the good and thank him daily. I have made a point of not just turning to Him in times of need. I think the importance of sharing with Him in all aspects, whether good or bad, it's what truly has forged my relationship with my Lord. I seek Him in everything I do, and I trust him with things I do not understand."
Q: But it's not just you, your wife had bone cancer and passed away in 2013. We are so sorry about that. How did you lean on the Lord during these painful times?
"I leaned very heavily on Christ when my wife died. It was such a shock to me. I was in such a dark deep hole that I didn't know how I was going to pull myself out. Grief really has a way of knocking you down. But then I remembered I wasn't alone. All I had to do was to turn to Jesus and instantly He was there to help me through it."
Q: Now you have a brand new album "It's Not too Late." Tell us more about this new record. What does this new record mean to you?
"This CD came to me in the form of a dream. Mind you, I had closed the music chapter of my life. I had no interest in performing or singing again. Ever even though I thought that chapter of my life was through, but apparently God had other plans. He gave me a dream and in this dream it was the bluest sky with rays of sunshine coming down to the earth, with gold bars on each side of that. I saw whom I knew was Jesus Christ in a white robe, though I couldn't see His face, feet, or hands. Jesus was standing next to a figure in a gray robe that was facing away from Him, also cloaked so I could not see who it was. At that moment, I woke up. I was terrified because I wanted to go back and tell this entity that Jesus was standing next to him, and wanted to ask him why he would not turn towards Jesus. The words that I saw in my mind in that instant were 'It's not too late. Don't hesitate to ask Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior.' I immediately had a drive to write, to put into words what I had witnessed both through lyrics, music, cover art. This resulted in a complete album, which was conceived, produced and released in nine weeks from start to finish. This project was indeed divine intervention, and I am humbled and proud that He chose me to do this record."
Q: What were some of the highlights in making this new album?
"The highlight of making 'It's Not Too Late,' is how everyone involved with this album paid such attention to detail, which to me is amazing. They all seemed to be infected by the energy of the vision and added their drive to the project as well. It was just sheer joy doing this as each word came and each note played. It brought everyone so close together and I was so glad to be there. It was something special and this CD means a lot to me because it is my living testimony."
Q: One of the songs on the album I really love is "A Soldier's Story." For our readers who have not heard it yet, what's the song about? And how did the song come about?
"It was breaking my heart knowing how many of my fellow soldier brothers and sisters were losing their lives by suicide once they came home. No one seemed to be doing anything about it. Being on 100% disability as a vet myself after my time in Vietnam, I understood that I had fought an enemy that I couldn't see, both there and after my return home. I remember feeling so alone in this fight. I understood what they were going through and I wanted to let them know that they were not alone. My faith in Jesus Christ helped me come through it and He can do the same thing for them. They are all brave men and women and they need to know there is help. I am so proud to be one of them and wanted them to know I am proud of them."
Q: Over all these years of joys and pain, what does Jesus mean to you?
"He means everything because He is my Lord and Savior. He has promised me eternal life. I believe that He has prepared a place for all of us. I, for one, want to see it and sing in that Hallelujah Choir."