Elizabeth King says she first believed in God when she was nine years old.
"My parents always taught me [that] there was a power, a higher power, but I really got to know Him when I was nine or ten years old," says King. "I got sick, and my mom carried me to the doctor, and they didn't know what was wrong with me. That night, I'm sick and I'm singing in the bed. I'm just singing. My mama said, 'You need to stop singing in the bed and go to sleep!' But I would just sing, and I would sing. And the next day, I got up and I felt better and that's when I really knew there was a higher power."
Music has been a joyful expression of King's faith ever since.
"[Gospel music] was the only thing that I really had any interest in singing because I wasn't around blues things too much," says King. "My parents were kind of strict on that. No dancing or the blues, and after I grew up older, I just never was interested in singing anything but the gospel. That was my joy—the gospel."
In 1969, a drunk driver hit her car from the side, sending her to the hospital for 17 days, where she was told she would never walk again. King did walk again, and she attributed her miraculous healing to God. "I already was serious about my singing, but I got closer on a walk with God…knowing that the only way I got out of that, you know, was that it was God. And it changed my whole life."
She began touring with an all-male gospel group, The Gospel Souls, and sang with them well into the 1970s, ultimately stepping away to raise her fifteen children.
"I never stopped singing, but I had to take time for my family," says King. "That was important. I wanted my children to go to school, go to college. I didn't want to have to go to jail and get my children out. I wanted my children to grow up to be something to the world, not against it, to be great in life."
Forty-five years later, at 77 years old, King has recorded her first full-length album, Living in the Last Days, thanks largely in part to Bruce Watson, the founder of Memphis-based Bible & Tire Recording Co, which aims to preserve and celebrate "Sacred Soul" music. The album is set for release via Bible & Tire on April 2.
"When we met Bruce and he asked me did I want to record again, I said yes, and I'm just thankful that I still was able to," says King. "My voice had changed a little, you know, from when I was younger, but I was glad that I would be able to, you know, sing a little."
"Sing a little" is an understatement. You'd be hard-pressed to find a pastor who preaches with the same kind of energetic persuasion with which King sings. Her deep voice is charged with conviction and reverberates with joy.
In light of an especially long, hard year, King hopes that Living in the Last Days will be a source of encouragement for her listeners.
"If we could just live peacefully one day at a time,' says King. "That way, I think people would learn to trust God more in their life…to apply that to their life each day, knowing that 'I had a real good day yesterday…When I get up in the morning, I'm going to look forward to another good day,' even when trouble comes. Because trouble is going to come. I don't care how—you can just sit in the house, just minding your own business—but trouble is going to come…What we need is that power to go through the trouble."
For King, God is that power.
"Just keep on trusting Him. And when you get to the place where it looks like you can't go any further, that's when He brings you out."
WORLD PREMIERE! Be the first to listen to "Reach Out and Touch Me," a song from King's new album below.