Shemekia Copeland, an award-winning blues singer, takes the stage at the Chocolate Church in Bath Saturday, Oct. 26. Courtesy Mike White

BATH — Before the eight Blues Music awards she’s won and the Grammy for which she was nominated, Shemekia Copeland was a teenager touring with her dad, serving as his opening act in his final days.

“I cherish those times,” the Chicago blues and R&B singer and daughter of Blues Hall of Famer Johnny Copeland, said in an interview Oct. 17. “Being able to watch my dad do his business and work was huge for me. … I learned quite a bit about the business in those last couple of years.”

The elder Copeland, whose health had been declining from a congenital heart defect, died in 1997. His daughter released her first album, “Turn the Heat Up,” the following year. Since then she’s garnered raves from publications like The New York Times and Rolling Stone magazine, which lauded her as a powerhouse and superstar who can do no wrong.

Shemekia Copeland, who last year released her eighth album of new material, “America’s Child,” performs at the Chocolate Church Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26.

Copeland’s father was the main reason the Harlem-born Copeland got into music. And why she almost didn’t.

“He was so great at what he did; truly anointed, an amazing performer,” she recalled. “I just thought, ‘I can’t do this.'”

But Copeland built up the courage to begin performing in her own right, and launched a career at the age of 16. Her father’s energy on stage, despite his declining health, was an inspiration that empowered her in the years to come; the stool on the stage in case he got tired went unused, and “performing at 200% was what he had to do at all times.”

He got to hear four songs from “Turn the Heat Up” before he died. “He knew I was on my way at that point, and I think that made him very happy,” Copeland said.

She records and performs songs written by her and others alike, but she makes them all her own. “Imagine going to get a suit made specifically for your body; that’s how my songs are made,” Copeland explained. “… I work with amazing writers that write just for me.”

Copeland has shared the stage with such luminaries as Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt and Carlos Santana, opened for the Rolling Stones, performed at the White House and for American troops in the Middle East.

In every act the Chocolate Church books, “we are looking for artists who can evoke something powerful in audience members,” Executive Director William Lederer said Oct. 17. “Shemekia Copeland is without a doubt one of those artists. Her voice is one-of-a-kind, and her masterful performance will ignite your emotions and make you feel empowered, joyous, and grateful.”

“America’s Child,” produced by 2004 Americana Instrumentalist of The Year winner Will Kimbrough, features guest performers Emmylou Harris and John Prine, among others.  It reaches past the blues to embrace Americana, country, rock and soul.

“Ain’t Got Time for Hate,” one of that album’s highlights, resonates, particularly in these often-divisive times. “Black and white, brown or tan, every woman, child and man, rich or poor, gay or straight, we ain’t got time for hate,” Copeland belts out with her dynamo voice. After all, she also sings, “this whole life is an uphill climb.”

“For a long time I’ve been making songs about social injustice, and now it’s just gotten more and more important,” Copeland said. “For my latest album, I had a baby, and it was very important to me to put out positive messages for him. Because right now in this world, we’re just filled with hate, and … I can’t stand it. That’s not what this country, and/or this world, should be about.”

Copeland has friends who lived through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, “and nobody’s seen it as bad as this,” she said.

Copeland started out doing about 250 shows annually across the world; now she’s down to about 75. She’s slowed down due in part to having her son – named Johnny for her dad – but also due to how the music business has changed. “It’s been in a constant decline for 20 years,” Copeland said, criticizing the ease with which someone’s art can now be obtained online for free instead of purchased at the record store, the traditional way.

Despite that, the 40-year-old loves performing and feels it’s what she was born to do. “Now that I’m growing up and learning who I am, and knowing more about what I want to say, it just makes me want to get out there even more, and put out a positive message and use my music in a positive way.”

She’s not afraid of any backlash: “I feel like if you hate what I’m doing, you just hate in general, and it has absolutely nothing to do with me.”

“Would you take my blood?” she asks in the song of that name to a person in need of a transfusion but consumed by racism. “Or would you rather die than share your life with mine?”

Copeland was unable to be there in 2017 when her father was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. Her mother was there, and “I really would have loved to have been there, but I had to go to work, which I know my daddy would have totally gotten and understood,” Copeland said.

“I think he was the best artist ever in the world, so as far as I’m concerned he should have been there already,” she added with a laugh. “… And hopefully, one day, if I keep doing what I’m doing, I’ll be right there with him.”

Tickets for Saturday’s performance at the Chocolate Church range from $29-$39 in advance or $41 at the door, and can be purchased at or by calling 442-8455.

Comments are not available on this story.