Today is the one-year anniversary of the passing of gospel great Bishop Walter Hawkins. The gifted singer, songwriter, and producer winner frequently performed in DC in the early days of his career. The Oakland native’s last public performance was at the famed Kennedy Center in DC last April. The GRAMMY® and Stellar Award winner left behind a rich legacy.
Bishop Hawkins created songs that were responsible for leading many to salvation and his lyrics certainly stand the test of time. His songs were sermons, extolling God’s love and forgiveness while acknowledging the struggles of life. He made sure listeners knew “Jesus Christ is the Way.” Other memorable songs include “Goin’ Up Yonder,” “Marvelous” “Be Grateful” “Don’t Wait til The Battle is Over” and “Thank You Lord.” Lady Tramaine Hawkins signature song, “Changed”, was written when Bishop Hawkins was just 17 years old. The song’s message continues to resonate with many today.
Bishop Hawkins recorded his first album, Do Your Best in 1972. But the album that propelled him to prominence was Love Alive. That led to subsequent Love Alive albums with his choir at Love Center Ministries in Oakland, CA. Love Alive III sold more than a million copies and Love Alive IV remained #1 on the gospel charts for 39 weeks. His 2005 solo album, “A Song in My Heart” earned a Stellar Award.
It’s just amazing music. I remember the first time that I heard it when WYCB came on the radio. They didn’t have any commercials for 2-3 months. That Love Alive I was blowing everyone out the water. That album just soaked into me.” Bishop Hawkins, as he wrote the songs that he wrote, to me they were just so mind-blowing and life changing. I don’t see how anyone can just sit and listen to any of his songs. They would really make you think about a lot of things and check yourself, your surroundings, if you’re really being grateful for stuff and have you thanking God for what he’s done. ~Jimmy Russell (Jimmy Russell and BOC)
He was a pioneer in Contemporary Gospel Music, along with his brother Edwin Hawkins (“Oh Happy Day”). Many gospel music artists can trace their musical origins and mentoring back to Bishop Hawkins, including Darryl Coley and DC’s own living legend Richard Smallwood (Promises). The large numbers in attendance at the Bishop’s homegoing last year attest to the huge footprint he made in the gospel community.
“I don’t think I was surprised, but I think he would have been surprised. My father was a very humble man so he would always put himself a little bit lower than what God had actually blessed him with. So I can’t say I was surprised but he would have been surprised to see the turnout, appreciation and the love that was there.” ~ Pastor Walter “Jamie” Hawkins (April 2011, discussing the outpouring of love after his father’s passing.)
There is no question that Bishop Hawkins was instrumental in weaving the tapestry that is gospel music today. His music is now reaching an entirely different generation. Time Life has re-mastered the Love Alive series and it has received a lot of buzz on social networking sites from a new generation of listeners, as well as longtime fans who are anxious to complete their Walter Hawkins library.
“Walter Hawkins had a huge impact on music. I think gospel music was going through a transition at that time. Walter Hawkins, he introduced just a whole new style a new feel of that music. I think a lot of the artist nowadays are essentially patterning after what was brought forth back then by Walter Hawkins.” ~Patrick Cooper, Jazz Pianist
The amazing tenor was a consummate artist but he was also a dedicated pastor ministering to the needs of his congregation. He shared God’s love to all that would listen and reportedly specialized in meeting people where they were and helping them get where they needed to be in Christ.
”Anyone possessing the Spirit of God cannot and will not live just any kind of life; If you don’t have his Spirit you cannot belong to Him.” ~ Bishop Walter Hawkins (posted on official Facebook page)
Walter Hawkins’ contributions to the world of gospel music are immeasurable. Although his uniquely identifiable tenor voice is now silent, his music lives on. And for that, we should all “Be Grateful.”
Click HERE to see Bishop Hawkins perform “Forgiving God”. To see a slideshow of some of his albums click HERE.