Soul singer, Anthony Hamilton like most who came before him, started his singing career in front of a church congregation. Before songs like “Charlene” and “The Point of it All” and this year’s “Amen,” Hamilton first sang in the choir of Charlotte, N.C.’s New Shiloh Baptist Church. Hamilton recently visited that church for an interview with NPR.
This summer, before the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by a Charlotte police officer drew the attention of the nation to this city, Hamilton led Jason King, the host of NPR Music’s series Noteworthy, on a tour of his hometown. Sitting down with King in the pews of his boyhood church, Hamilton says his whole family played a role in the initial steps of his career. “Grandmother, granddaddy and aunts and uncles and everybody else [said], ‘Boy, you better go down there. You gonna do something. You need to join the choir because you need to serve the Lord,'” he says.
But Hamilton knew from an early age that he wanted to be a famous singer, and he knew that pursuit might take him away from songs of worship. “I was rebellious,” he says. “I was walking the line [between] the church and the world then. That was my battle.” That battle also played out in the urging of family and community members to “sing for the Lord, don’t sing for the world.”