Monday, July 12, 2010

Bishop Walter Hawkins Has Gone Away

The passing of Bishop Walter Hawkins might not get the same attention as that of another seminal singer from the last four decades, Michael Jackson, did only a year ago, but in the church world, this loss is just as great.

If you spent any significant time in the Black church during the 1970's and '80s, you are very well aware of Bishop Walter L. Hawkins and the Love Center Choir.  Who doesn't remember when Love Alive, the first of five Love Center albums, hit the scene?  We were treated to such great and now iconic songs, like "Changed", "I Won't Be Satisfied", "Dear Jesus, I Love You", and "Goin' Up Yonder".  Note when this album hit, they weren't CDs nor was it called Love Alive 1.  Who knew there would be others?  After hearing the songs though, we were all clamoring for more.


Of course, big brother Edwin Hawkins had already made a name for himself and the Edwin Hawkins Singers with "Oh Happy Day" but would this new choir, this new sound, last?

Then came Jesus Christ Is The Way, followed by Love Alive II, and we were knew the first album hadn't been lightening in a bottle.  Walter Hawkins and the Love Center Choir, which featured his then-wife Tramaine Hawkins and his sister Lynette Hawkins, was for real.

Bishop Hawkins and the choir teased us, though.  Unlike other choirs that shot of the gate, dropped a bunch of music and faded from the scene, they made us wait.  Their releases were much farther apart than other choirs, but somehow we all understood.  Their level of greatness couldn't be rushed.

It wasn't just the music, though. Bishop Walter Hawkins and his brother, Edwin Hawkins, had flair. They had style. I'm not sure anyone other than their very closest circle of friends and family, and maybe not even them, saw these gentlemen looking anything but pressed and dressed to impress. Always.

They didn't come out often. We didn't see them on every music show and special or at every gospel music conference. So when they appeared, we knew we were in fro a special treat. Even if they didn't perform, just having them there brought an air of magic to the event.

A solo album came and a family album.  As much as we loved them--and we did--were they a signal that the Love Center choir was no more?  Uncertain but pleased to hear more of the dulcet tones of Walter Hawkins and his singing family, we basked in songs like "What Is This?", "Goin' To A Place", "Try Christ".

The mid to late 1980's brought us Love Alive III and Love Alive IV.  By now we knew the unique chord structures and vocal tones of Bishop Hawkins and his music as soon as we heard it.  As the decade waned, we hoped there was more, even as we realized that the passing of time meant the now bishop had responsibilities for so much more than sharing his musical gifts with us.

More solo projects and guest recordings while we waited and waited.  

Finally, Love Alive V, a two-CD 25th anniversary set, dropped in 1998, and it was like giving a gallon of water to a thirsty man in the desert.  Sure, a number of songs were remakes, but we didn't care.  Walter Hawkins could sing those songs as many times and as many ways as he wanted.


The music of Bishop Walter Hawkins defined a generation of gospel music and marked the milestones of life for many Christians.  My husband and I sat up last night just naming songs--"Never Alone", "When The Battle is Over", "Be Grateful", "I'm Going Through", "Give Use Time", "Wait On the Lord", "The Just Shall Live", "My Gratitute", "Thank You", "The Potter's House", "Seasons"...simply way too many to name and all of them memorable.

In person, the man of such a big and moving voice seemed a bit demure, reserved, making the voice all that much more amazing. He was both kind and gracious.

After a bout with pancreatic cancer, he has gone on to a place where he can rest in peace. We will miss Bishop Walter L. Hawkins.


Peace & Blessings,
Patricia

1 comment:

Chicki said...

Wonderful tribute, Patricia!

I got saved in 1982 and Walter and the Family along with Andrae Crouch were the first gospel groups I was exposed to. I'll never forget when I saw them live at the Ritz Theater in Elizabeth, New Jersey. They were incredible!

He was so gifted, and will be so greatly missed ...