The Gospel Music Community Remembers Walter Hawkins

Published by Torrence Glenn on Monday, July 12, 2010 at 7:11 pm.

As we all know, one of the greatest singers, songwriters and vocal producers, Bishop Walter Hawkins died yesterday from complications with pancreatic cancer at the age of 61. It’s still rather surreal and feels like it just shouldn’t be and pulling together this blog is no easier than yesterday’s.  As we, members of the gospel music industry, deal with this tremendous loss; many have taken the time to remember Walter and his legacy so I wanted to share with you. So I’ll be passing the mic to some industry colleagues and artists now.

****old school COGIC mic toss****

Edwin Hawkins (Walter’s brother)

“Today, I lost my brother, my pastor, and my best friend. Bishop Hawkins suffered bravely but now he will suffer no more and he will be greatly missed.”

Richard Smallwood

“We have lost a legend, one who changed the face of gospel music, the face of church music and whose masterpieces still inspire millions. But more than that I’ve lost a dear friend of over forty years. He is one of the reasons why I am in the music ministry now. Because of his ministry,his music, his inspiration and his friendship, I am the better. I miss him more than I can articulate but his legacy and his music will continue to live on. “

Ted Winn

“Walter Hawkins was much more than a prolific, timeless singer, songwriter, producer and musician. He was a man of integrity and excellence, one of class and perfection. His voice and songs will resonate with generations for years to come but more importantly his example of how to live life and treat people will be an even greater legacy. He has influenced me from the time I was a child until the time I was able to record and sing with him.  I called him a mentor, an example, an icon, but most importantly he was my friend.”

JJ Hairston (Of  JJ Hairston & Youthful Praise)

“We are all saddened by the loss of Bishop Walter Hawkins.  His music helped form the gospel industry that exists today.  Not only did he set the standard for choirs and groups, but he himself had one of if not the best tenor voices in gospel music history.  Every writer, choir director, and singer of gospel music owes respect to Bishop Walter Hawkins.”

Jonathan Nelson (of Jonathan Nelson & Purpose)

“There are probably five people that have influenced my music in a major way and Walter Hawkins is one of those top five. From his lyrical content to the message in every song that he wrote, every song was a hit to me. From `Follow Me’ and `Goin’ Up Yonder’ to `Marvelous,” his music is always relevant. It was relevant when he wrote it and it’s relevant today. He embodied the magic of gospel music.”

Vickie Winans

“I broke out into a complete weep. I was getting ready to go on stage and somebody sent me a text and that’s how I found out. When I was a teenager, I never missed a  concert.  Everytime, the Hawkins Family came to Detroit, I was right there. They were like the Jackson 5 for me. To get to actually know the Hawkins family and share stages with them was the dream of a lifetime. I loved Walter and his music and he knew that I did.  I was such a fan of his writing that I recorded two of his songs `Try Christ’ and `I Love You Lord‘ on my own CD. Walter is like a king to me.”

Candi Staton

“I loved him, I loved his music. What a loss. I’ve known him for thirty years but I’ve been with him several times over the last two years. We were honored at the Christian Music Hall of Fame together. I always enjoyed being in his presence. I remember we were sitting in a hotel lobby in Dallas, just catching up on old times and he was really an encouragement to me. I will really miss him and I know that everyone else will also. He was one of a kind.”

Juanita Bynum

We were listening to ‘Oh Happy Day’ and my mom came home and said “who is that yall playing” and we gave her the album cover and she said “Turn that mess off! God ain’t using no man with perm in his hair”

So a few days later we were playing going up yonder and my mom started shouting and speaking in tongues and crying. She ran back in the kitchen and said ‘Who is that on that record’ and we all said in unison ‘The man with the perm in his hair.’

From that point on our house was a complete Walter Hawkins stalker and fan club to the 1000th power and still is!

Wow what a gift! What a blessing to the world!

Brian Courtney Wilson

I did not know Bishop Walter Hawkins personally but have known people who spoke of his sweet spirit. I thought I could hear that spirit in his music. When I heard of his passing the first song to jump in my head was ‘Changed’. Anyone who has encountered our King can relate to those lyrics and the sentiment that the Hawkins family comnunicated through song. If that was all the bishop had contributed it would have been enough, but there was so much more. Again my heartfelt condolences go out to the Hawkins Family for their loss and heaven’s great gain. I can almost hear Bishop Hawkins proclaiming ‘and now I’m free!!!!!’

Nolan Williams Jr.

Having had the opportunity to present him at his last public performance and the Kennedy Center honoring him was monumental for me,” says Nolan Williams Jr., artistic director for the National symphony Sacred Sounds concert at the Kenendy Center this past April. “All of the staff there wanted to honor people who are currently gospel chart toppers, but I pushed for Bishop Hawkins. I know God put his name in my spirit for a reason so that he would know how much he and his music is loved.”

Neily Dickerson (Industry Veteran of the ND Co./Church Howe Music)

When I was younger, between 8 & 11, I use to go to Memphis for the summer.  My cousins and I would put on plays and play church(do kids do that anymore?).

Anyway, Walter Hawkins’ Love Alive projects served as the soundtrack and backdrop of songs we would sing.

My favorite song was “Try Christ.”  I led it and I think it ranks in my Top 5  Walter Hawkins songs.  My 5 fave would be: ”Try Christ,” “Be Grateful,” “When The Battle Is Over,” ”What Is This,” and “I’m Going Away.”  I could go on, but I’ll stop at 5.

I’m thankful that I experienced his “Love Alive” and had an opportunity to  briefly fellowship with him.

I met him a few times, but the meeting I hold on to is when he told me he was aware of my work and knew what I was doing in the industry.  I was OVERwhelmed and flattered that he took time to say that to me.


Bryan Wilson (former child gospel star)

“Bishop Hawkins was the first major producer that I ever worked with on the `Bryan’s Songs’ CD and he really took the time out to work with me and encourage me. I was about 13 and my voice was beginning to change. I was known for doing these Mariah Carey type of notes. So, we had one one session and it was okay. Then, a few weeks later, we did another session and I couldn’t reach any of my high notes. I was sitting on the piano bench with my back to Bishop and started to cry. He told me that this happens to everybody who sings and you just learn to adapt. He was like a father figure and a great role model. I will always remember that encouragement he gave me then and recently when he was encouraging me and talking about me going into the studio again.”

Also, check this BET News Brief that aired yesterday.

****grabs mic****

These are just a few. As we continue to reflect all the way up until his homegoing service and beyond, I’ll be reaching out to folks on their thoughts and memories on Bishop Walter L. Hawkins. Also make sure to check out some of my blogger/web colleagues tributes for more. remembers Walter Hawkins Walter Hawkins Timeline & Discography

Gospel Music Channel Remembers Walter Hawkins

Now, I’ll go back to the music. Enjoy some more with me. “I’m Going Away” is by no means an attempt at being morbid but when I tell you, this song is even more profound and pronounced than ever…..

  • PLAY – “I’m Goin’ Away” – Walter Hawkins
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    Bro.Donald Said on

    Facts regarding the song Oh Happy Day. Prayer goes out to the Hawkins family.

    his is the only traditional Gospel song ever to crossover and become a hit on the Pop charts. “Oh Happy Day” is a Protestant hymn that dates from 1755. It is included in the standard Baptist hymnal.

    Edwin Hawkins was a pianist at Ephesian Church of God in Christ in Berkeley, California when he came up with the popular Latin/Soul version of this song in 1968. In an October 23, 2009 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, he explained that “Oh Happy Day” was one of eight arrangements he put together for the Northern California State Youth Choir, which was made up of 46 singers ages 17 to 25, and the plan was to sell an album of the songs to finance a trip to a church youth conference in Washington, D.C. The tracks were quickly recorded live in church on a two-track tape machine (industry standard at the time was eight-track), but the records weren’t pressed in time for the trip. They did attend the conference, and the choir placed second in a singing competition, where they performed 2 of Hawkins’ arrangements, but not “Oh Happy Day,” which Hawkins said was “Not our favorite song.”

    500 copies of the album were made, and one of them found its way to the popular DJ Abe “Voco” Kesh at KSAN-FM in San Francisco. Other stations followed, and Buddah Records signed Hawkins to a record deal, rechristening the Northern California State Youth Choir “The Edwin Hawkins Singers” for their reissue of the album, which became a huge hit.

    The female lead is Dorothy Morrison, who signed her own deal with Buddah Records when this became a hit.

    This song was recorded for the Gospel market, and its secular success didn’t go over well with everyone at the church: local officials of the denomination circulated a petition asking secular radio stations to stop airing the song. Hawkins had a different take. He told The Chronicle: “I think they thought they were doing the right thing. What confused me about it was they were teaching us all our lives that we were to take the message everywhere.”

    Dan Sorkin, who was a famous DJ on radio station KSFO in San Francisco, was a big supporter of this song and gave it a huge push on his morning show. He even interviewed Dorothy Morrison and Edwin Hawkins.

    This won a Grammy Award for Best Soul Gospel Performance.

    This is the song that the late Beatle George Harrison claimed he got the idea for “My Sweet Lord,” not The Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine” which he was blamed for. (thanks, Jeff – Boston, MA)

    ANDRE WATSON Said on


    Corey Sue Ward Said on

    I was blessed by his ministry and humbled by his humility. These words sum it all up.

    But only to add, “He did not succumb to cancer, he minnistered, sang, smile through it and when his purpose was fulfilled, he departed this life, trading it for eternity.

    Audrey Reed Said on

    What a gift to the Body of Christ…from the album introducing the Hawkins Family up unto now, Bishop Hawkins have been such a blessing to all of us who have followed him, as he followed Christ. I am deeply sadden beyond belief, yet rejoicing at the same time. My prayers go out to his family, his friends and church family who knew him personally. Unto we meet at Jesus Feet my dear Brother, your music shall continue to bless, touch, and deliver, and we shall continue to sing…”Jesus Christ Is The Way!”

    Bob Myers Said on

    Never met bishop walter Hawlkins. and never be to any concert or church he has sing or minister, But I felt I did meet him thru his music and that one of kind voice, his music and talent has inspired all of god peoples.just listing to walter hawlkins love alive 2 and 3 has been the capture of my spirit and soul. my favorite is DO YOUR BEST, that says alot by it self. Bishop thanks a million for all those beautiful songs. my condolences to the Hawlkins Family.
    There is more OH HAPPY DAYS…………God Bless You

    Nehemiah H. Brown Said on

    Whether ever he was singing or preaching he was singing or preaching, his message was, “All You Need Is Christ”. He taught musicians to minister…

    He wrote, “Lord Give Us Time” and we are better because God gave us 61 years and more of Walter Hawkins.

    This is the Lord’s doing and it is “Marvelous”, in our eyes!!

    Prayers for Edwin and the Church Family , sisters and brother, Daniel and grand children. “You Must go On”. God will give you the strength to, “Hang on in there with Him.

    My flight from San Francisco back to Italy will be the same day as the Musical and Home-going celebration for my former pastor, but ,I will like so many others be wearing “cream colors” for his recent victory. Gone Up Yonder!!

    Rev. Donald E. Archey Said on

    I was shocked and deeply saddened when I heard Monday, of Bishop.Walter Hawkins passing. My thoughts and prayers are with the Hawkins Family and Love Center Ministries. I, like so many people never meet Bishop Hawkins, but I fell as though I did. I cant seem to stop crying!!! Bishop, I loved you and I loved the way you loved God. I grew up listing to love Alive (Love Center Choir) and now i am 48, thank you for all the songs. To the Hawkins family, and friends…. keep the FAITH

    Mychaeltodd Said on

    We will miss you greatly Bishop Hawkins! Our praise will remain in our mouths and continue to love and except all people.- Min. Mychaeltodd

    Dorothy Parrott Said on

    I grew up listening to the Hawkins family and loved the music of Bishop Walter Hawkins, his music spoke to the soul and hearts of people everywhere, he will be missed, and his music will go on forever, his song Marvelous just says it all! My heart has been sad since hearing of his passing, not only was he one of a kind, he was just awesome! RIP Bishop and just “go up yonder”! CU one day!

    Janice Bailey Said on

    I grew up in Southern California. Walter Hawkins and the Hawkins family were the mainstay of our gospel music diet. We knew all the songs…loved all the songs and sang them in church out of church..wherever we went. I still remember the day when they released O Happy Day. I was a young girl with a tenor voice and couldn’t sing with my elementary school choir because there was no tenor section. God gave me confidence to overcome self esteem issues related to my voice by just singing Oh Happy Day…God is standing by and so on. I did not know Mr. Hawkins was ill. My favorite songs are What is this….Jesus Christ is the way…. Hold On Old Soldier…and Marvelous. God bless Mr. Walter Hawkins!!

    Thomasine Hedgepeth Said on

    God looked down on Bishop Hawkins and said my rose is ready to be placed in my garden in Heaven.In his stillness God place him in his arns and carried him home.Weep no more because he will welcome us home with a song of Joy with the Heavenly choir.
    God Bless and may he continue to shine his light upon the Hawkin’s family.

    Terrence Goodwin Said on

    I’ve grew up listening to Mr. Hawkins songs and the songs that touched my heart is marvelous and thank you. My thoughts and prayers goes out to the Hawkin’s. R.I.P. Bishop Hawkins. Terrence Goodwin…

    Betty Rich-Williams Said on

    We are praying for the Hawkns family during this time and even in the days to come. Surely the man of God, (Walter Hawkins) touched countless lives with his music. His music was an outward flow of his love for the Lord. He will be missed.Our church ,The City of Praise has sung Thank You countless times.

    Father in Jesus name we pray now that You will comfort, stregnthen, and keep the Hawkins family. Wrap Your tender loving arms around them and allow them to feel the peace that passes all understanding. Lord they are rejoicing that Walter Hawkins is with You, but they miss his presnce. Heal the pain and lift the burdens now.AMEN
    Hawkins family there is no pain that heaven can not heal.


    In Christ Unconditional Love,
    Willie and Betty Williams

    Ina Watson Said on

    May God keep Walter Hawkins close to his heart and love him as much as I have loved him him over the years. I thank him and his family for all of the music and pray that he can now rest in peace. His passing is so hard, but God knows all of his people appointed time. He will live forever through his music and his wonderful overall contributions to the world-not just to gospel alone but to the world as a whole. May God keep his family in his grace during these dark hours.

    Elder Wayne Benton Said on

    I was inspried by Bishop Hawkins Music and Message. Yes we will miss him but, God has called him home. So Sants Let get ready to join him in Heaven. Our Prayes goes out to the Hawkins Family. “Let not your heart be troubled.” God is with you all. Peace in the name of Jesus!

    DC Said on

    I remember when I used to put on my zip-front bathrobe pretending it was a choir robe and stand at the railing at the bottom of our stairs to sing with the Hawkins. My mother played their music on a regular basis and I learned at a very early age what music MINISTRY was all about. It was always evident that Bishop Hawkins was all about being about his Father’s business. My prayers are for his family and the continuance of the legacy he has left. His work on earth was finished and God has surely said WELL DONE. May the blessing of his ministry live on.

    Dr KimLogan- Nowlin Said on

    Truly a gift from God. I was a student at Oakwood College (University) in 1977 when I first saw and heard the Hawkins Family. I was never the same after Changed. My love for God and how He could use music to save a soul like me is just amazing. I praise the Lord for Bishop Walter Hawkins. My prayers and love to the family.

    All Around the World News Said on

    The Gospel Music Community Remembers Walter Hawkins | The Gospel ……

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