Memorial: Bishop Walter Hawkins

Pastor Walter Hawkins passed away on July 11, 2010, at the age of 61 in his home in Ripon, California, after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer. Hawkins is one of the most beloved figures in contemporary Gospel Music. In a career that spans over thirty years, he has authored of one of the the most prolific catalogs of recordings and published songs. Over the years we have enjoyed "Jesus Christ Is The Way", "Changed", "Going Up Yonder", "Is There Any Way", "Thank You Lord" and really just too many to even try and name.

The wealth of his pen and prose were gifts to us all and he leaves generations of artists and songwriters who are greater at their craft because of him. Walter Hawkins has Walter Hawkins -photo credit Robert Shanklin and Teddi Patton been instrumental by both direct and indirect influence in the careers of many of today's gospel artists including Tramaine Hawkins, John P. Kee, Daryl Coley, Richard Smallwood, Donnie McClurkin and countless others.

Gospel publicist and author Bill Carpenter writes a tribute, which we reproduce below:

Condolences are pouring in from all over the gospel music industry about the passing of the legendary Grammy Award winning singer/composer, Walter Hawkins. Hawkins, who is known for his million-selling Love Alive albums in the 1970s, died of complications of pancreatic cancer at his home in Ripon, CA on Sunday, July 11, 2010 @ 2:48 a.m. PST.

The gospel world is celebrating Hawkins' life and music with tributes and testimonies. Syndicated radio host Steve Harvey talked about Hawkins' passing on his show this morning and platinum recording artist Yolanda Adams devoted all four hours of her syndicated morning radio show to memories of Hawkins and his music.

"I broke out into a complete weep," fellow gospel legend Vickie Winans said when she first heard that Hawkins had passed. "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."

Former child gospel star Bryan Wilson looked up to Hawkins too. "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."

"I loved him," soul singer Candi Staton said. "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."

"Walter Hawkins was much more than a prolific, timeless singer, songwriter, producer and musician," says Top Ten gospel star Ted Winn. "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."

Another person who came to know him as a friend is pianist 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."

Another young gospel star who called Hawkins a friend is Jonathan Nelson of "My Name is Victory" fame. "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."

Other artists and industry notables have written tributes as well:

"As President of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses, Inc., founded by the late Dr. Thomas A. Dorsey, we send our deepest and heartfelt sympathy to the family of Bishop Walter Hawkins. We have lost a great legend whose music inspired singers, musicians and the world to understand and love gospel music.As a Christian role model, Bishop Walter Hawkins caused many persons, young and old, who struggled with life issues to commit their lives and issues to Christ. As a loving shepherd, Walter Hawkins continued to feed and lead the Love Center congregation to engage in social ministry that changed the Oakland community. Thousands of lives will remember the works of this "Man of God"; who has "Gone Up Yonder"." — Bishop Kenneth H. Moales, Sr.National President

"The Journey of a TRUE Psalmist! When we think about a psalmist, our minds immediately fix on King David, who was and is for all of us the perfect visual image of who and what a psalmist is. Someone called, anointed and appointed to do a special ministry (music) for God. David began his journey as a shepherd (Hebrew) boy. Bishop Hawkins was a part of the "Hebrew Boys". David was chosen out of his entire house and kindred by God to do the work he was called to do. Bishop Hawkins was also chosen out of his entire house and kindred to do the work God had called him to do! Then, the prophet of God, whom God had called anointed David with the oil God had purposed for his (and only his) life...and so too, God anointed Bishop Hawkins with the oil that was for his (and only his) life! David's journey to his final destination was filled with a tremendous amount of pain and suffering, as well as a tremendous amount of victories and defeats. I know that Bishop Hawkins journey was likewise mirrored to that of David. However, because they were traveling on the road that God himself had preordained for them to travel, the ultimate destination was sure and certain victory in Jesus! For David, it amounted to escaping death numerous times and ultimately becoming the King. For Bishop Hawkins it was escaping the perils that presented themselves and becoming Pastor and Bishop. Though David became King, he continued in his calling as a Psalmist, and though Bishop Hawkins became Pastor and Bishop, he also continued in his calling as a Psalmist. How can a Psalmist turn off the music or block out the melodies that permeate their very soul! It is, in fact impossible. And that is why as I listened to Bishop Hawkins share his testimony and begin to minister in song, his own composition "Marvelous" that I was given this reflection to share. I pray that it will bless and uplift the people of God who were richly blessed, encouraged and uplifted by the "MARVELOUS" Psalmistry of the "LATE BISHOP WALTER HAWKINS"!!!" — Minister Malcolm Speed.

"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." — J.J. Hairston of Youthful Praise

Discography: Walter Hawkins
CD Find it hard to keep track of all the Walter Hawkins albums that are out there? Get mixed up between Love Alive III, Take Courage and Love Alive II? Not sure what labels he was on? Sort all that out by checking with our exhaustive discography of Walter Hawkins albums, complete with trivia and album covers to guide you.

See full Discography of Walter Hawkins.

"To call someone a legend is not to be taken lightly. And yet you can't help but to give that honor to Walter Hawkins. Spanning the traditional to the contemporary, Bishop Hawkins' work is a definitive gospel songbook, inspiring and encouraging multiple generations of Gospel enthusiasts along the way." — Stan North, Co-founder, GOSPELflava.com

"We had the pleasure of working/singing with Bishop Walter Hawkins several years ago on the syndicated show "Testify" produced by Telisa Stinson. And, I also had the privilege of playing keyboard for him on that same taping. It's an experience I will never forget." — Andrea Brown (on behalf of The Brown Sisters)

"The transition of Bishop Walter Hawkins has left me shocked, stunned, and saddened. He was a great inspiration and mentor, and I shall continue to celebrate his life, and legacy. His music, as well as his memory, shall be timeless." — Jeffrey LaValley

"Bishop Walter Hawkins will be truly missed by many. He has left an indelible mark on the Gospel Music Industry. His legacy will live on and he will be remembered as a pioneer of Gospel Music". — Bishop Paul S.Morton, Sr.

"Sandra and I have known the Hawkins Family since we were little kids. My first group was called the COGICS (the Church of God in Christ singers), and none of us could drive yet and we would take a train to Oakland to hear the Hawkins family and they in turn would come down to hear us, People always thought the Hawkins sound was so far advanced than what we normally heard. Walter was an amazing writer and musician and a phenomenal singer. We were privileged to be a part of a service in his honor at Love Center just a short time ago. Walter was unaware that we were coming and when he saw us walking down the aisle (Sandra, Tata Vega and myself) he was so shocked, you could see the tears in his eyes. He was elated to see us. One preacher got up and said I have never been to a party where there wasn't any dancing, and someone grabbed a tambourine and the church went up. They weren't playing they was doing that hard shouting. I mean Lynette (Walter's sister ) ran from one side of the pulpit to the other, shouting and rejoicing in the Holy Ghost. It was a great time for all of us, and the Lord was magnified. We didn't know it would be Walter's last service (as Edwin mentioned to me on Sunday).We were in the Bay area for the funeral of Elder Renard Chuck Webb on Sunday when I got the news of Walter's passing from Sandra. We went straight to the family home to be with Edwin and the family. Donald Lawrence was there when we got there. Sandra had told me 6 months ago before we knew anything to remember him in prayer every day. The Lord had not revealed to me at that time that Walter was in his last days. And Walter gave no indication that he was. We did a taping together for Feed the Children and Walter sang like he didn't have an aching bone in his body. It's amazing to me how (when people are sick) then you pray and you feel as if God is going to heal them, but God says when our time is up and we have done our work, He takes us. His ways are not our ways and we must trust him to lead us. God has his set time for all of us. I am reminded of a song that I wrote called "Be Thou Faithful". The Lord has blessed us, not just the Hawkins and the Crouches and Clarks and Winans, but ALL OF US; the Smiths and the Joneses, the common everyday people. God is still requiring us to be faithful. We have to make use of every opportunity. I am getting on the planes now asking people, do you know Jesus in the pardon of your sins and leading them through the sinner's prayer. A good number about 70% of them respond and accept the Lord. We need to live as if we know Jesus is coming any day. We need to be real and live the songs that we sing and write and play. As for Walter, he is going to be missed. He was such a pivotal person even in the church, the Love Center and Edwin's conference. Thank God for his music that will keep his legacy alive. But I think if you asked him on Sunday when he took his leave of this world to be absent from this body and present with the Lord, he would say, It was well worth the journey." — Andrae Crouch

"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." — Edwin Hawkins

"Since 1998, I was blessed to work with Bishop Hawkins, traveling across the country playing for him on all of his preaching and singing dates. Throughout our travels and on every single event, he never treated me any different, he was always the same with me. He was many things: a father figure, a Bishop, a friend, a fellow musician and singer. He taught me a lot musically. He poured into my life both musically and spiritually. I am grateful to say that part of what I am today musically is because of his guidance and leadership, and for that I am very thankful." — Terry Moore

"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. " — Richard Smallwood

"When I was younger, between 8 and 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 fave was "Try Christ." I led it and I think it ranks in my Top 5 Walter Hawkins songs. My 5 favs 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 five. I'm thankful that I experienced his "Love Alive" and had an opportunity to briefly fellowship with him." — Neily Dickerson, the ND co. / Church Howse Music

"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 communicated 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!!!!!'" —Brian Courtney Wilson

Discography: Walter Hawkins
Columnist Gregory Gay pays tribute to Walter Hawkins in this 2007 column.

See full Tribute to Walter Hawkins (2007).

Before there was ever a thought about Dawkins and Dawkins, we were singing and playing songs that Walter Hawkins penned. Also blessed to have a last name that rhymed with Hawkins; although laughable, we felt a kinship of sorts. There was rarely a choir rehearsal when one of his songs was not on the list. Just the intro to one song in particular ("Until I Found the Lord") takes us back to experience the growing anticipation of the change from the infectious chant of "couldn't be contented!" to the shout-til-you-drop cry of "I got the victory!" Nothing quite compares... Even more, we are glad to be among those who had the pleasure of being acquainted with such a gifted man. Thank you Walter for using your gift of song to honor God. We will sadly miss you. — Anson Dawkins & Eric Dawkins (Dawkins & Dawkins)

I want to celebrate the Life and Legacy of Bishop Walter Hawkins. I've had the pleasure and the honor to travel and play for him since 1985. If there ever was a person who demanded Excellence and Perfection in their music, it was him. Many doors opened for me because of Bishop Hawkins as well as his brother Edwin. We will miss him tremendously, but his music will live on forever!!!!! —David A. Blakely, Producer, Organist, Keyboardist

I first met through my working with Edwin for a number of years. It wasn't long before Walter asked if I'd be willing to move from Chicago to Oakland to work with him on some future projects. The 5 years I spent in Oakland shaped my musical knowledge forever! I moved to Oakland as Kevin Bond the Keyboardist, but left Oakland 5 years later as Kevin Bond, the Producer, Keyboardist and Songwriter! This was because no one could be around musical giants and not be impacted! I must say that working with Walter Hawkins was the best experience I could've ever had. What I've become as a producer and the heights I've been able to reach is because of Walter and Edwin allowing me to shadow them in those late night studio sessions!!! Regarding his passing, I sum it up this way, "The Greatest 1st Century Levite, David, just got the opportunity to meet one of the Greatest 20th Century Levites, in Walter Hawkins!" Lastly, Walter taught us not to wait til the Battle was over, but to shout now knowing that. Just as he did, we too will Win! — Kevin Bond (www.kevinbond.com)

I remember watching his videotape as a kid with Darryl Coley singing I've got the Victory, Victory and singing and dancing in the living room. I had the chance to minister the same program as Walter Hawkins and being scared to sing before him. (The preacher preached that batman was like Jesus but I digress). He sang & shifted that room with ease. An amazing gift to the Kingdom! —Jason Nelson

We are covering and lifting up the Hawkins and the Love Center Church family in prayer. My sisters and I were on the airplane when Kierra shared the news with us and like many, we were just devastated. The world has lost a giant in the passing of Bishop Walter Hawkins, but our loss is heaven's gain, he was such a creative and innovative individual, how can you think of gospel music without thinking of songs like "Changed", "He's That Kind of Friend", "Never Alone" and "I'm Going Away". The Clark Sisters shared the stage with Walter and the family on many occasions and we always found him to be genuine. We pray that God will give the family strength during this time. — Jackie Clark Chisolm, on behalf of the Clark Sisters

— compiled by GOSPELflava.com Staff

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