Ripon, CA – Walter Hawkins’, the Grammy Award-winning gospel singer/composer and pastor of Oakland’s Love Center Church, funeral services will be held July 21 at 11 a.m. at the Paramount Theater.Hawkins died July 11th at his home in Ripon.
For the last two years, Hawkins battlled pancreatic cancer. He was 61 years old.
During the 1970s, Hawkins led a new wave of gospel artists such as his brother Edwin Hawkins of “Oh Happy Day” fame, and Andrae Crouch, who brought a youthful contemporary vibe to gospel music.
Hawkins cut a series of best-selling “Love Alive” LPs that remain gospel classics.
Hawkins’ songs have been recorded by Aretha Franklin, “American Idol” champ Ruben Studdard, Vickie Winans and M.C. Hammer.
“The impact that Walter Hawkins had on gospel music was so profound and far-reaching that it is now, and forever shall be, part of gospel’s DNA,” says gospel music historian, Bob Marovich, who edits The Black Gospel Blog.
Hawkins was born May 18, 1949 in Oakland , CA. Reared in the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) denomination, Hawkins became a master pianist as well as a dynamic singer with an operatic vocal range.
His brother, Edwin, made a name for himself in 1969 when “Oh Happy Day” became an international hit.
While studying for his master’s of divinity degree from the University of California at Berkeley, Hawkins recorded his first LP “Do Your Best” in 1972.
An October 1972 Billboard magazine reviewer wrote, “Walter Hawkins is a pianist of enviable accomplishments while his vocal prowess is in no way disputable.
He’s gathered around him an exceptional crew of sidemen and vocalists and the total effect is completely invigorating.”
The following year, Hawkins became a pastor and founded the Love Center Church in East Oakland.
After forming the Love Center Choir, he recorded their first album as a church family.
He used $1,800 he borrowed from his mother-in-law to complete the project. It was the first in a series of LPs named “Love Alive” and it debuted on Light Records in 1975.
The album featured his then-wife, Tramaine, leading “Changed” and “Goin’ Up Yonder” which became two of the biggest gospel songs of the decade.
A runaway smash, the “Love Alive” album sold 300,000 copies.
The five “Love Alive” LPs featured classic
gospel songs such as “I Love the Lord,” “Be Grateful,” “I’m Goin’ Away,” “Thank You, Lord” and “Until, I Found the Lord.”
Although he earned nine Grammy Award nominations during his career, Hawkins only won one for his performance on “The Lord’s Prayer” LP in 1980 (he also performed on the televised Grammy Awards ceremony that year).
In 1990, Hawkins released “Love Alive III” which became the biggest seller of the “Love Alive” album series. The radio favorites were “There’s A War Going On”, ” I Love You, Lord” and “He’ll Bring You Out.”
The LP spent 34 weeks at #1 on the Billboard gospel album sales chart during the almost 100 weeks it spent on the survey.
The album went on to sell more than a million copies.
The 1993 “Love Alive IV” also peaked at #1 on the album sales chart and spent a year on the survey.
In between projects, Hawkins was ordained a Bishop in October 1992.
The 2001 “Love Alive V” CD featured a huge comeback hit for Hawkins with the ballad, “Marvelous.”
Hawkins’ final solo CD “A Song in My Heart” won a Stellar Award for Traditional Gospel Album of the Year in 2006.
He was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame in 2007.
After surgery for pancreatic cancer in late 2008, the Hawkins Family (Walter, Edwin, Tramaine, and sister, Lynette) staged a successful, multi-city Hawkins Family reunion concert tour.
At the time of his death, Hawkins was planning a new “Love Alive” CD concert recording for this fall.
Hawkins relished being a pastor as much as he enjoyed singing. “Early on I thought my ministry and my music were apart from each other. But now I see they work hand-in-hand,” he once said.