Singer-songwriter Shirley Murdock is best known for her hit “As We Lay,” but there are details behind her story most people don’t know — including a connection to faith and gospel that goes deeper than her later turn toward the genre.
Ahead of the premiere of her “Unsung” episode on TV One Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT, Murdock spoke to Atlanta Black Star on March 21 about the role God has played in her life and career and how her faith kept her going after losing two key players who helped put her on the map: Roger and Larry Troutman.
It was the Troutman brothers of the Ohio-based funk band Zapp who helped Murdock rise to stardom after she was initially hired by Roger as a Zapp backup singer. After one of the queens of the quiet storm sound cut some songs with the band — including the feature “Computer Love” — Murdock turned heads with her signature ballad about sleeping with a married man.
Although the song, which peaked at No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1987, became arguably her most famous, Murdock maintained it wasn’t her first dip into the industry. She actually began her journey as a gospel artist.
“It was my heart’s desire to sing gospel,” she explained. “I was pursuing a gospel career but those doors never opened. And so, when I met Roger, I walked in the door by faith through the door that God opened.”
She went on to say that as she questioned why there were no opportunities for her to wade into gospel territory rather than secular music, she prayed and spoke to her pastor.
“I realized no matter the secular job I had, I was still God’s child,” she said. “It did not alter my relationship with God, it did not alter my faith and so I just took my faith with me to my next job.”
Murdock said meeting Pastor T.D. Jakes led to the chance to break into the gospel industry. However, she was still signed to Warner Bros. This prompted Roger to help her leave the label in December 1998, ultimately freeing her to join Jakes’ label. She later released her first gospel album, “Home,” in 2002.
“The transition wasn’t really for me, it was for everybody else,” she explained of her current status as a gospel performer. “Because I knew who I was, I knew whose I was.”
But the singer still recalls the deaths of the Zapp band members that came as she made her ascent in the gospel world. Roger was found clinging to life in a Dayton, Ohio, recording studio in 1999. He ultimately died hours later in surgery, Rolling Stone reported at the time. His brother, Larry, was found in his car several blocks with a single “apparently self-inflicted” gunshot wound to the head, police said. Authorities deemed it a murder-suicide with Larry noted as the shooter.
It rocked Murdock, who described it as a “devastating event.”
“It was my faith in God and just the love that we all have for one another that kept us going,” she said. “And not giving up knowing that God has a way of making all things work … I came to a conclusion that when there’s a senseless act you will never understand it. … So stop trying to make sense of it and accept it to be what it was. Even though it was hard, the love that I had for both those men and the role that they played in my life would never make me regret knowing them or experiencing them or receiving the wisdom I got from them as a young woman coming into the industry.
“We survived it,” she added. “There’s triumph in survival … there will be beauty out of the ashes.”
Shirley Murdock went from singing gospel music to singing “As We Lay.” How did she get there? Hear her story SUNDAY 9/8c #Unsung
Posted by Unsung on Monday, March 18, 2019