Edwin Hawkins died Monday, January 15th, 2018 at the age of 74. Most everyone knows “O Happy Day”, but not many people know the depths of the wonderful music Edwin Hawkins (and his brother Walter) brought to the world. Some of my favorite gospel songs, notably “Love Paid The Price” and “To My Father’s House”, are gifts from Edwin Hawkins. Here’s a small collection of Edwin Hawkin’s music. Rest in Peace.
Not EVERY song from a genius is an absolute winner. Case in point, “All I Have Is Yours” written by Richard Smallwood in 1982. Although clearly “contemporary gospel”, it seems Smallwood was trying his hand at trying to crossover into either the pop or disco market…or both, with this song. Not necessarily one of my favorites, but worth posting for what it is.
A classic Keith Pringle song from back in his heyday in 1981. This song has a little Caribbean/Reggae feel to it, probably influenced by the new reggae sound pioneered by Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton’s group The Melodians with their 1970 recording of “By The Rivers of Babylon” that was featured in the 1972 movie “The Harder They Come”. Boney M. had a huge hit in Europe with a 1979 cover of “By The Rivers of Babylon”.
Savoy Records executive producer Reverend Milton Biggham teamed up with the Reverend Armond W. Brown, pastor of the Fellowship Baptist Church of Oak Cliff, Texas, to organize the Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) Mass Choir. On March 20, 1990, more than 200 members representing some 100 churches throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, metropolitan area gathered for the first rehearsal.
I Will Let Nothing Separate Me, the choir’s 1991 Savoy debut, was recorded at Calvary Temple Church in Irving, Texas. The album hit No. 5 on Billboard’s Top Gospel LPs chart, but more importantly, it introduced an emerging gospel singer, songwriter and pianist by the name of Kirk Franklin. Impressed by the young talent from Fort Worth, Biggham recruited Franklin to lead the DFW Mass Choir on a recording of Franklin’s Everyday With Jesus. It was included on the debut album.
Lift Him UpDallas Fort Worth Mass Choir5:09
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Savoy followed with Another Chance in 1993, also recorded live at Calvary Temple. In addition to Franklin, who wrote the title track and Your Name Is the Same, the album included contributions from Donald Vails, Dottie Peoples and Myron Butler. That same year, the choir, with Franklin as a director, supported gospel star Myrna Summers on her Deliverance album, also for Savoy. But by the end of 1993, Franklin was on his way to superstardom. His debut album, KirkFranklin & the Family, which introduced another future gospel star from Fort Worth named Tamela Mann, topped the charts and had a profound impact on the direction of gospel music.
DFW Mass Choir’s For His Glory arrived in 1994. Recorded at the Word of Faith Family Church in Dallas, the album included Anointed Pace Sisters standout LaShun Pace and firebrand vocalist Kathy Taylor. Like the choir’s two preceding albums, For His Glory made the Billboard Top Gospel Albums chart. In 1995, Interscope/CGI signed the DFW Mass Choir and released Lead Me, with the hit, He Is My Up (When I’m Down). I’d Rather Have Jesus (1998), also for Interscope, was another Billboard charter.
By the new millennium, Franklin and the many artists who followed in his wake had supplanted the mass choir with the male-led gospel group / small choir in terms of radio play and music sales. Nevertheless, as the title of its 2003 release for Light Records declared, the DFW Mass Choir was Pressin’ On. In 2008, Light presented a greatest hits set called Ultimate Dallas Fort Worth Mass Choir. It featured fan favorites such as Blessed Assurance, He’ll Bring You Out and I’d Rather Have Jesus.
From a unique recording of Rev. Timothy Wright (founder of The New York Fellowship Choir) singing with the fabulous Chicago Mass Choir comes today’s song, “Master, Can You Use Me?”
Master Can You Use MeRev. Tinothy Wrught & The Chicago Mass Choir5:39
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Gospel director Reverend Timothy Wright has been involved with choirs on a regular basis for most of his life. Wright began playing piano at the age of 12, as he utilized his budding musical talents at the St. John’s Fire Baptized Holiness Church of God in Brooklyn, NY, eventually composing for the church’s choir. By 1969, Wright was playing piano for the late Bishop F.D. Washington, and it was from his tenure in Washington’s choir that Wright gained the attention of Rev. Isaac Douglas and the N.Y. Community Choir, for which Wright soon began playing organ for, as well as penning almost all the songs on Douglas’ 1971 album Lets Go Higher. In the mid-’70s, Wright formed his own outfit, the Timothy Wright Concert Choir, resulting in such releases as Who’s on the Lord’s Side and Do You Know the Light, and began playing with various other choirs across the United States. Wright also found the time to team up with Myrna Summers for her We’re Gonna Make It release, as well as forming the project Come Thou Almighty King, which is comprised of a 500-voice choir. Wright is the pastor and founder of the Grace Tabernacle Christian Center in Brooklyn, and since 1990 has been issuing albums on a regular basis, including such titles as I’m Glad About It, Moving in the Spirit, and Story to Tell; 1994’s Come Thou Almighty King was nominated for the Best Traditional Soul Gospel Grammy and hit Billboard’s Top 20 gospel chart. He remained busy into the 2000s, until July 2008, when Wright was seriously injured in a car accident that killed his wife and grandson; he died the following April at age 61. ~ Greg Prato