Chicago-based radio host and Gospel journeyman Gregory Gay pulls from the fascinating and extensive history of Gospel music to present Take Me Back, a regularly-appearing column on GOSPELflava.com that examines the glory of Gospel music in days gone by.
July 18, 2010
The passing of Bishop Walter Hawkins (on July 11, 2010) has touched us all in an up close and very personal way. I remember talking to him after we published his GOSPELflava.com Take Me Back column tribute (thanks Dwight McKee).
He asked me, "How could you know me like that?"
I thought about it today and, well, we all feel as if we all knew him. We know him through the music and ministry that he shared with the world (many know Walter as a singer, writer, choir master and musician, but Bishop Walter Hawkins was also a great Bible teacher).
On one of the social networking sites, I've shared my earliest recollections of the Hawkins Family (not the supergroup, just some COGIC young people from Oakland) coming to Bishop Louis Henry Ford's St Paul COGIC on the southside of Chicago to sing music from their new album Jesus Christ is the Way in the 70s. Their enthusiasm was evidenced in their singing as well as their presentation. They came to have church.
We know how Walter acted when the Spirit hit him. Thank God, there are videos and DVDs to prove it, with Daniel on organ, Edwin on piano, Joel on drums and the singers (at that time) Feddie, Carol, Lynette and of course Tramaine and Walter.
When the city of Chicago brought its first Gospel at Grant Park in downtown Chicago (an early prototype of what would become the Chicago Gospel Music Festival), there again was the Hawkins Family (now traveling with the addition of Shirley Miller and Darryl Coley).
Bishop Hawkins would tell us in later years that he often compared the Hawkins Family lineup to another Gospel supergoup, The Caravans. He likened himself to Albertina Walker, in that he kept the group together and covered the rear, with Lynette (who was "the Shirley Caesar") and Tramaine (who was "the Inez Andrews") doing all the house-wrecking. He said he spent his time giving them his best material (and it showed) while he got the slim pickings (now here I disagreed with him, because "Give Us Time" was by no means a slim picking!)
Here is a scorecard for you to make your own decision on that:
During Bishop Hawkins' illness, we got to see a man living out his conviction. He not only wrote and sang "The Just Shall Live By Faith", but he lived it each and every day. He kept up a rigorous pace, traveling and singing and preaching and while he didn't feel 100 per cent, the common man never knew it, because Walter Hawkins never showed it. He gave us his all each and every time.
When he spoke, he spoke of redemption and forgiveness and the miraculous life-changing power of God actively working in his life. On his many trips to Chicago, we could never get past "Marvelous". EVERY TIME HE SANG IT, no matter how many times we heard it, it was as potent as the first time.
Looking back over what would be his last solo project, A Song in My Heart (read review), we found a very different Walter Hawkins. We didn't know it, but Walter was singing from the pages of his life, his testimony of God's forgiveness ("Forgiving God)", God's wondrously unending love ("Ever Loving Father") and the closing song on the project on which Walter summed up the very sentiments of his heart with "All I Know" ("Standing oh so securely, nothing much can move me/ Because of You, in a world filled with pain, I will not complain / For I know that You Love me, all You do is the best for me, and it's true./ Knowing I'm not forsaken, I refuse to be shaken by tragedies, whatever tomorrow's theme, I can still sing,/ For I know that I love You, all I am is because of You and it's true./ The battle is over, and we're going home; for we truly have the victory.
Revelation 21:3-5: And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
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July 18, 2010