Walter Lee Hawkins was a contemporary gospel singer, songwriter, composer, and minister. Hawkins was active from the 1960s until his death in July 2010. During his career, he recorded six albums, was Grammy nominated nine times, one of which being Best Gospel Performance which was won in 1981.
Born in Oakland, California, on May 19th, 1949, Hawkins began his impactful career with the Northern California State Youth Choir which was led by his brother. This was the start of his four-decade career which made him an influential figure in contemporary gospel music. His impact was so powerful that without Hawkins many of the gospel greats that we know today, would not be here today.
By 1970, Hawkins began his solo career through his ministry with the Love Center Choir in California. The group rose to fame when they found success after Hawkins’ arrangement of “Oh Happy Day.” This was no ordinary arrangement, this was the start of a new era of gospel. This brought the genre global success and was actually the first to cross over to non-gospel charts. The record also brought the group to win a grammy for Best Soul Gospel Performance. Part of the reason for this being so impactful was not solely due to the fact that it had international success, but it also changed the sound of gospel. Contemporary factors such as synthesizers and influences from other genres is what made this so impactful for the future of gospel.
Additionally, in efforts to spread his religious beliefs and arts education, he co-founded the Music and Arts Love Fellowship which offered classes and workshops that brought his love for art and ministry to students.
How we hear and see gospel today in platforms that are not even Christian-based is largely due to Hawkins. He was talented, passionate in his ministry, and very giving. By his death in 2010, he completed a fulfilling career that impacted the ones following him.