Guest Blogger: Kurt Carr Reflects on Bishop Walter HawkinsPublished by Torrence Glenn on Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 1:32 pm.
We’ve spend the week honoring the life and music of Bishop Walter Hawkins but today I’m taking a bit of a different approach. I reached out to a bunch of folks in the gospel industry and gospel radio to share their thoughts on Walter’s passing but one story stuck out to me and I wanted to give it it’s own space.
One of the reasons this stuck out to me because many times in gospel, inside and outside of the industry, we tend to get a little jaded or even sometimes forget what makes this music and ministry so important. We sometimes forget about the power of gospel music to change people’s lives. Kurt Carr’s reflections on Walter Hawkins brought it all back and I wanted to share it with you.
***passes mic to Kurt Carr***
I grew up in Hartford, CT and grew up in the traditional black family. However the thing that was unique about my family other than most black families is that we did not go to church. We went to church on Christmas, Mother’s Day and Easter. They called us “CME Members.” We grew up with Christian values and everything but there was no church in the home. I didn’t hear gospel music in my home ever.
We ended up moved to a neighborhood that was a stonesthrow away from a church in Hartford called the Hopewell Baptist Church. One Sunday morning I got up and asked my mother if I could go to church. I went by myself. My mother saw my interest and then she had gone to New York to see the play “Your Arms Too Short To Box With God” and she brought me back the soundtrack and the record “Jesus Christ Is The Way” by Walter Hawkins and the Hawkins family. I listened to that album every single day for about 2 years. Every single day, in all of my free time while all of my friends and stuff were out playing I was inside listening to the record. To the point where I would get punished because I was up too late at night listening. I would sneak in the living room at 2 or 3 in the morning and listen to that record.. I know every single song backwards and forwards. I learned how to play piano from that record. I learned how to pick out the parts which is how you learn to teach parts and choir direct and is the beginning of songwriting. All of that, all of my musical influence in gospel music started with Walter Hawkins & the Hawkins Family. So they became my idols. Literally to the point where,even to this day when I saw Walter I would just get nervous. My heart was just beating fast and everything, and I thank God that I’ve gotten to tell him many times that influence that he had in my life and how literally that music drew me to Christ.… To this day my favorite song of all time is “Jesus Christ Is The Way.” And I can’t hear it without getting choked up. I can’t even talk about it without getting choked up.
And one of my greatest full circle moments was 2 years ago when I was asked to produce for Tramaine Hawkins and I produced the album and wrote the title track “I Never Lost My Praise.” And I Played it for her over the phone at 4 am and she was silent. I thought.. “she hates it.” But then she began to just weep and speak in tongues and she said “That’s the song I’ve been waiting for for 25 years. That song is my testimony and I’ll be singing this song untill die, I know it. I know it.” Before she ever even sang it, she said that. Talk about full circle moment. Walter’s ministry has been interwoven in my life ever since I was 14 and got that record. So I say that trumps most gospel artists because they were born in church and their mama sat them on the piano stool, etc. Not me, it was a record. That’s why I say that music ministry can draw people to Christ. It was that music that inspired me to want to know more about Jesus and to want to do what I do.
Last year they had a tribute to Walter and I couldn’t come becaue I was in Africa and I felt so horrible because I wanted to be there so badly. Last year we got a concert in San Francisco in December and I called Edwin and I said “I’m gonna crash your service.” I rearranged everyone in the group’s scheduled and tickets and we surprised Walter and did a concert at the church that Sunday morning. He was just elated and wept and we just worshipped God and he couldn’t even preach, the spirit was so high. And I really feel that was one of the most important days of my life. One of the most important things I’ve ever done was to be able to be there for him and to say thank you publicly one more time. I told him how his ministry blessed my life and because of his obedience to do what God told him to do, not only was he blessed but he blessed someone like me in Connecticut who might not have ever found my way to gospel music if it were not for his record. So he’s my hero. I just think he was one of the greatest writers of all time and he was such a complete package. He could sing and he could play and he could direct and he could write the way that he could which is just unbelievable. He’s sorely sorely missed and I’m just so sad but I’m happy to know he was a blessing to so many people. And I’m happy to no without question he’s in heaven making music with Jesus. So I’m so excited that our paths crossed, but moreso that I was able to share and be a blessing back to him.
***takes mic from Kurt Carr***
Wow, that’s what it’s all about folks. For those of you who are artists or are aspiring, remember how powerful what you do can be. You can be responsible for someone introduction to gospel music, to church, or even to Christ. Kurt’s story just shows what a wonderful and prolific artist and musician Walter Hawkins was and why the entire gospel music community are gearing up to celebrate him in Oakland next week. Not only can we be thankful to Walter for bringing us years of great music, but for also inspiring artists we love today such as Kurt Carr, Donald Lawrence, Richard Smallwood, etc. All I can say is WOW and thank you!