Byron Cage Biography
Gospel singer, praise leader
Known as the "Prince of Praise," celebrated gospel singer Byron Cage has been performing and recording songs since the 1980s and has become known for a self-described "cross-cultural, mass-appeal praise and worship" style that has kept his albums in the Billboard Gospel Top Ten almost continuously since it began in 2003. Cage is minister of music at the mega church, Ebenezer African Methodist Epsicopal (AME) Church in Fort Washington, Maryland. Since releasing his debut album, Dwell Among Us, in 1995 he has helped "praise and worship" music to become a major force among gospel musicians. Cage has served in two mega churches, helping them to grow and sustain large congregations with his charismatic style. In his ten years at Atlanta's New Birth Cathedral, Cage helped expand the church from a small congregation of 700 worshippers into a mega church of over 16,000 members.
Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Byron Cage grew up in a Christian family and attended church as a child, being influenced in particular by Bishop Abney. He spent his early years in Grand Rapids before moving to Detroit, Michigan, with his family at the age of 12. He recalled for Christianity Today that it was in the Pentecostal church there that he first experienced the form of worship that would become known in the 1990s as "Praise and Worship." He attended Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, and at age 23 won a scholarship to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. There he also began attending Bishop Eddie Long's church, the New Birth Cathedral, then known as the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. Bishop Long later presided over Cage's marriage to Sonya Windham Cage, a pediatric dentist, in 2004.
Cage's career as a gospel singer began when he was still in his teens and he held the role of choir director at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit. He was invited to join the group "Commission," then known as the "Disciples of Christ," but his studies at the University of Oakland stood in the way. After moving to Atlanta, Cage joined the New Birth Cathedral and persuaded Bishop Eddie Long to make changes to the traditional form of service. As well as touring with the late Thomas Whitfield, a gospel star ten years his senior, whom he lists as his musical mentor, Cage spent a decade at the New Birth Cathedral and became musical director. In his time there he gradually transformed the traditional old-style Baptist church into a gospel-oriented, charismatic style. While he acknowledges that the process was difficult and painful for some, in the same period the membership increased from a modest 700 to over 16,000.
In the late 1990s Cage accepted the position of minister of music at Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington, Maryland, where the pastor is Rev Browning. Ebenezer is one of the largest AME churches in the area with over 12,000 members. Cage admitted to Christianity Today that it was difficult bringing his contemporary style of music and worship to a conservative AME church. He also noted that the cultural divide between black and white congregations that he experienced early in his career is being broken down by music. Cage has since become senior minister of church worship and music administration at Ebenezer.
By 2003 Cage was a senior member of the Ebenezer ministry team, with a growing reputation as a charismatic musician and worship leader, and performing regularly at large venues. But it was the 2003 album Byron Cage that brought him to the attention of the wider public and to the mainstream music industry. Recorded at New Birth Cathedral the album won four Stellar Awards at the gospel music industry's 19th annual awards ceremony in 2004, including "Best Male Vocalist," "Best Song," with Kurt Carr, "Best CD," and "Best Contemporary CD." Carr, his longtime collaborator and producer, picked up an award for "Producer of the Year." The album also won a Soul Train Award for "Best Gospel Album, 2004."
Since the late 1980s Cage has been at the forefront of developments in praise and worship music, which represents a break with more traditional gospel music in that it brings contemporary styles and new songs to the old format. Along with performers like Ron Kenoly and others he has helped to broaden gospel's appeal; he has also been part of a movement within the American Baptist churches that is changing the traditional style of services. Cage claims credit for inspiring the Full Gospel Baptist denomination churches to adopt "praise and worship" more widely. But Cage is also aware that his music has spread beyond traditional gospel congregations. As one of the best-known exponents of "praise and worship, " Cage is an influential figure: his music is used by worshippers in a wide range of different churches and settings.
Dwell Among Us, 1995.
Transparent In Your Presence, 1996.
Byron Cage, 2003.
Byron Cage: Folio, 2004.
Ebony, February 2005, p. 60.
Grand Rapids Press, (Grand Rapids, MI), January 12, 2004, p. B8.
Houston Chronicle (Houston, TX), August 16, 2003, p. 1; March 27, 2004, p. 1.
New York Times, March 28, 2005, p. E5.
USA Today, February 5, 2004.
"Breaking Barriers: An Interview with Byron Cage," Christianity Today, http://www.christianitytoday.com/music/interviews/2004/byroncage-0104.html (June 23, 2005).
Byron Cage, www.byroncage.com/ (June 16, 2005).
"Byron Cage," Detroit Gospel, www.detroitgospel.com/DG-Byron-Cage.htm (June 23, 2005).