Earworm alert! The genius of Richard Smallwood once again. Although Richard Smallwood may be best known for his gospel classic, “Total Praise”, the list of his amazing hit compositions goes on and on and on.
We Magnify Your NameRichard Smallwood5:04
We Magnify Your Name - KaraokePocket Songs Karaoke4:32
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This particular track, “We Magnify Your Name” just grabbed me and entranced me the other day. The song’s two minute intro just sucks you in as it builds and builds from a simple drum riff followed by a piano and then goes higher as the orchestration gets more and more intricate and the strings start doing these amazing riffs with Smallwood adding neat keyboard riffs of his own.
I threw in a karaoke track if you want more and don’t want the “distraction” of the vocals.
The MASTER again, Richard Smallwood with his song of Thanks. This almost nine minute masterpiece, like “Total Praise”, leaves one drained and full of emotion. A beautiful, powerful song.
Thank YouWalter Hawkins6:34
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Walter Hawkins, the Grammy Award-winning gospel singer, composer and pastor of Oakland’s Love Center Church, died July 11, 2010,at the age of 61. He had been battling pancreatic cancer for two years.
During the 1970s, Walter Hawkins personified a new wave of gospel artists such as his big brother, Edwin Hawkins of “Oh Happy Day” fame, and André Crouch, who brought a youthful contemporary vibe to gospel music. Walter cut a series of best-selling “Love Alive” LPs that remain gospel classics to this day. His songs have been recorded by a who’s who in music ranging from Aretha Franklin and “American Idol” champion Ruben Studdard to Vickie Winans and M.C. Hammer. “The impact that Walter Hawkins had on gospel music was so profound and far-reaching that it is now, and forever shall be, part of gospel’s DNA,” says gospel music historian, Bob Marovich, who edits The Black Gospel Blog.
Walter was born on May 18, 1949 in Oakland, CA and came up in the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) denomination. He became a master pianist as well as a dynamic singer with an operatic vocal range. With his big brother, Edwin, already making a name for himself in 1969 with “Oh Happy Day” which became an international hit in the Gospel world as well as in the secular scene, Walter was well on his way at making a name for himself as well.
While studying for his master’s of divinity degree from the University of California at Berkeley, Walter recorded his first LP “Do Your Best” in 1972. An October 1972 Billboard magazine reviewer wrote, “Walter Hawkins is a pianist of enviable accomplishments while his vocal prowess is in no way disputable. He’s gathered around him an exceptional crew of sidemen and vocalists and the total effect is completely invigorating.”
The next year, Walter became a pastor and founded the Love Center Church in East Oakland. After forming the Love Center Choir, he recorded their first album as a church family. He used $1,800 he borrowed from his mother-in-law to complete the project. It was the first in a series of LPs named “Love Alive” and it debuted on Light Records in 1975. The album featured his then-wife, Tramaine, leading “Changed” and “Goin’ Up Yonder” which became two of the biggest gospel songs of the decade. A runaway smash, the “Love Alive” album sold a staggering 300,000 copies. The five “Love Alive” LPs featured classic gospel songs such as “I Love the Lord,” “Be Grateful,” “I’m Goin‘ Away,” “Thank You, Lord” and “Until, I Found the Lord.”
In the `80s, Walter recorded a number of solo LPs and produced a number of artists, including Tramaine. Although, he had earned nine Grammy Award nominations during his career, he only won one for his performance on “The Lord’s Prayer” LP in 1980 (he also performed on the televised Grammy Awards ceremony that year). In 1990, he released “Love Alive III” which became the biggest seller of the “Love Alive” album series. The radio favorites were “There’s A War Going On”, “I Love You, Lord” and “He’ll Bring You Out.” The LP remained at the #1 on the Billboard gospel album sales chart for 34 weeks during the almost 100 weeks it spent on the survey. The album went on to sell over a million copies. The 1993 “Love Alive IV” also hit the #1 spot on the album sales chart and spent a year on the survey as well. In between projects, Walter was ordained a Bishop in October 1992.c
Richard Smallwood‘s “Total Praise”…it has become one of the best know contemporary gospel songs and for good reason. It’s amazing.
I first heard it by accident listening to a gospel music radio show late one Sunday night. Sitting there in the dark this song came on and by the end I was a weeping mess. (see comments below…I’m not alone!)
Gospel writer Bob Marovich wrote “Like James Cleveland, Smallwood is an absolute genius at composing gospel canon. It is as if he is scoring the soundtrack for Heaven itself. On ‘Total Praise,’ Smallwood combines his classical sensitivity with gospel exuberance, creating an exquisite aural feast. His setting of the Amen at the conclusion of ‘Total Praise’ may well be the most beautiful moment in gospel music today. It’s a challenge to listen to this recording and not well up in tears of joy.”
Here is Smallwood describing what made him write Total Praise.
“Its sort of ironic how it came to me. It came to me in a very difficult time in my life. My mother was very ill, my god brother was terminally ill and I was playing caregiver, running from the hospital to my home taking care of everybody. It really felt like I just couldn’t do it. A lot of people don’t understand that care giving is just as difficult as the person who is ill because if you don’t take care of yourself you can end up in the hospital from stress and stuff.”
“I felt like, I know God has not forsaken me but sometimes you get to a point in your life where you know He’s there but you cant feel Him. I knew He was there, I knew he had my back but I couldn’t feel anything and I said God I cant. I feel helpless with my loved ones, I can’t make them get any better, and I don’t know if I’m doing enough.”
“I was sitting at the piano and Total Praise came just like that. I didn’t have to work on any melodies or inversions, it just all came as if it were already written.” (Carol King said the exact same thing when she spoke about writing “You’ve Got a Friend”…RLS)
“I knew once I wrote it that God had given me something really special. I had no idea all that it would do but I knew it was very special. He really gave it to me in that particular instance because he was saying to me, “Regardless of what you see around you or regardless of what you feel I’m still owed your praise because I’m going to get you through it, you may not see it or you may not feel it but I got your back so give me praise now, in your valley time; I call it valley praise. When you really think about it, God already mapped it out; He’s got it even if you don’t see it. That’s what he was saying to me “give me your praise in what ever season you find yourself in.” He gave it to me and then He took it elsewhere and did what He did with it.”
Here are another couple of snippets about the song:
“This uplifting anthem is stunning in its emotional power, ending with a reflective setting of the Lutkin Seven-fold Amen. Powerful from beginning to end, this anthem of praise is just what you need to fill the sanctuary with the Spirit!”
“The conclusion of this popular gospel hymn evokes the tenderness of Brahms, the boldness of Wagner, and has brought the most macho of men to briny tears.”
Lastly, here is a video of the master…the composer of the song, Richard Smallwood (with his vocal group Vision), performing the song in it’s entirety, including a magnificent orchestral intro.