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Archive for the ‘Gospel’ Category

RIP, Sherman Washington Jr. (March 14, 2011) New Orleans Gospel Great

Posted by on March 14, 2011

Sherman Washington Jr.
DOB Unknown – March 14, 2011

Photo by David Grunfeld

Sherman Washington Jr. was a beloved New Orleans Gospel singer, radio host and promoter.   As a member of Zion Harmonizers for the better part of 60 years, Washington was there for the birth of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, playing at its first gathering in 1970.  Two years later, he took over the Gospel Tent and turned it into one of the most popular venues at the festival ever since.  In the early years of Jazz Fest, the Gospel Tent was the place many white visitors experienced Gospel for the first time.  Washington was also the host of the popular Sunday morning Gospel program on New Orleans radio station, WYLD-AM.  The show became much more than a jukebox of the latest Gospel hits, but rather a community of sorts with Washington serving as its beloved “mayor.”   In ailing health in recent years, Sherman Washington Jr. passed away in his home on March 14, 2011.  He was 86.

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RIP, Sherrill “Shaun” Nielsen (December 10, 2010) Sang With Elvis

Posted by on December 10, 2010

Sherrill “Shaun” Nielsen
DOB Unknown – December 10, 2010

Shaun Nielsen was a singer, songwriter, producer, and pianist who is perhaps best remembered for his time singing with Elvis Presley.  Besides performing on stage with Presley, Nielsen dueted with him on “Softly As I Leave You,” which was nominated for a Grammy in 1978.  It was during those years that he sang with Voice, the Gospel group who opened for Presley.  Nielsen was also part of such Gospel groups as the Singing Speers, the Imperials, and the Statesmen.  All were inducted into the Gospel Hall Of Fame, making Nielsen the only person to be done so three different times.  Sherrill “Shaun” Nielsen died of cancer on December 10, 2010.  He was 68.

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RIP, James Phelps (October 26, 2010) Gospel Great

Posted by on October 26, 2010

James Phelps
DOB Unknown – October 26, 2010

James Phelps was a pioneering Gospel and R&B singer who, over the course of his long career worked with both Sam Cooke, Lou Rawls, and Otis Redding.  Phelps entered into show business while still in his teens, when he moved from Shreveport to Chicago and began singing in local Gospel groups.  After dabbling in rock ‘n roll and R&B a bit, Phelps returned to Gospel for the rest of his professional life.  In 1965, he scored an R&B hit with “Love is a Five Letter Word.”  James Phelps was 87 when he passed away on October 26, 2010.  He died from complications of diabetes.

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Died On This Date (October 12, 1998) Raymond Myles / New Orleans Gospel Legend

Posted by on October 12, 2010

Raymond Myles
July 14, 1958 – October 12, 1998

Raymond Myles was acknowledged by his New Orleans’ musical peers as perhaps the greatest gospel talent of his generation. The testimonials to his greatness as a singer, pianist and choir director came from no less than Harry Connick, Jr., Aaron Neville, Dr. John and Allen Toussaint. Myles devoted his life to addressing vital social issues that impacted his community and affected him personally. From his impoverished beginnings in the everyday violence of New Orleans’ housing projects, he became a dedicated public school music teacher whose commitment to young people steered many of them away from ruin during a murderous crack epidemic in New Orleans during the nineties. “But as hard as he tried, Raymond never felt that his community embraced him with what he considered to be God’s unconditional love,” said Leo Sacks, who produced his only full-length studio album, A Taste of Heaven, and is directing a documentary called A Taste Of Heaven: The Heartbreak Life of Raymond Myles, Gospel Genius of New Orleans, now in production ( “These feelings of isolation and disconnection reflected a lifetime of struggle with his elders in the black church, a struggle that boiled down to their refusal to fully accept gay worshipers.”  In his short, turbulent life, Myles performed as such prestigious music events as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and the Newport Folk Festival. Tragically, his dramatic journey from a childhood of abject poverty to the brink of international music stardom was cut short when he was murdered during a carjacking outside the French Quarter on the night of October 11, 1998.  A career criminal from New Orleans was sentenced to 20 years in Louisiana’s Angola state penitentiary for being an accomplice to the killing.  So beloved was Raymond Myles that when he was laid to rest, only Mahalia Jackson and Louis Armstrong drew more mourners to their Crescent City funerals.


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RIP, Solomon Burke (October 10, 2010) Pioneering Soul, Blues & Gospel Singer

Posted by on October 10, 2010

Solomon Burke
March 21, 1940 – October 10, 2010

Solomon Burke was a beloved and influential singer-songwriter who built a sizable following due to his powerful gospel, soul, and blues voice.  Burke ‘s first adult profession was a preacher, and went on to become a popular gospel radio host and then a singer.  Signed to the prestigious Atlantic Records in 1960, went on to release several critically acclaimed secular records, his most famous perhaps was “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” which was covered by the likes of the Rolling Stones, Jerry Garcia, Wilson Pickett, and the Blues Brothers (John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd).  During the 2000s, Burke made a comeback of sorts.  He was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, and won a Grammy in 2003 for his Fat Possum release, Don’t Give Up On Me Baby album.  He was also playing in front of his biggest crowds at concerts and festivals around the world, as well as worldwide audiences on television.  Between 2005 and 2008, Burke released a trilogy of albums for Shout! Factory, Make Due With What You Got, Nashville, and Like A Fire – all are essential listening.  On October 10, 2010, Solomon Burke died unexpectedly at an Amesterdam airport where he had just landed en route to a performance.  Cause of death was not immediately released, but it is believed to have been of natural causes.  He was 70.

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RIP, Albertina Walker (October 8, 2010) The Queen Of Gospel

Posted by on October 8, 2010

Albertina Walker
August 29, 1929 – October 8, 2010

Albertina Walker was a beloved Gospel singer who has been rightfully called the “Queen of Gospel.”  Walker began singing while still a child in Chicago, Illinois, driven by the influence of future friend and mentor, the great Mahalia Jackson.   It was during the early ’50s that she formed her first group, the Caravans, which counted such greats as Shirley Caesar, James Cleveland, and Loleatta Holloway as members.   By the ’70s, Walker was working as a solo act, recording for such respected labels as Savoy and A&M Records.  Over the course of her career, she has won three Dove awards and one Grammy, sold over 500,000 of five separate albums, and sang for two U.S. Presidents as well as Nelson Mandela.  Albertina Walker was 81 when she passed away on October 8, 2010.

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Died On This Date (August 30, 2009) Marie Knight / Respected Gospel Singer

Posted by on August 30, 2010

Marie Knight
DOB Unknown – August 30, 2009

MarieKnightSmMarie Knight was a respected gospel singer who is best remembered for her work with Sister Rosetta Tharpe during the ’40s.  Touring and recording with Tharpe throughout the ’40s and ’50s, Knight scored gospel hits with “Up Above My Head” and “Didn’t It Rain.”  In 2002, Knight released Let Us Get Together, her first album in over 25 years.  Marie Knight died of pneumonia in a Harlem nursing home at the age of 84.

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Died On This Date (August 15, 2008) Jerry Wexler / Legendary Producer & Label Head

Posted by on August 15, 2010

Jerry Wexler
January 10, 1917 – August 15, 2008

In the studio with Aretha Franklin

Jerry Wexler was best known as a music producer who was responsible for some of the greatest music from the 1950s through the 1980s.  He also coined the phrase “rhythm and blues” while he was editor of Billboard magazine before he became a partner of Atlantic Records in 1953.  While at Atlantic he either produced or signed some of the all time greats of popular music.  That list includes Wilson Pickett, Led Zeppelin, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan and the Allman Brothers.  He retired from the music business in the late ’90s, and passed away of congestive heart failure in 2008.

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Died On This Date (August 13, 1968) Joe Hinton / 1960s R&B Singer

Posted by on August 13, 2010

Joe Hinton
November 15, 1929 – August 13, 1968

Joe Hinton was a gospel singer who began making non-secular soul music in 1958.  Over the next six years, he scored a handful of R&B hits which included, “You Know It Ain’t Right,” “I Want A Little Girl,” and a cover of Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away.”  Joe Hinton died of skin cancer at the age of 38.

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RIP, Bishop Walter Hawkins (July 11, 2010) Grammy Winning Gospel Singer

Posted by on July 11, 2010

Walter Hawkins
May 18, 1949 – July 11, 2010

AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari

Walter Hawkins was a Grammy winning Gospel singer and ordained Bishop who, with the the help of his brother, Edwin Hawkins and their Edwin Hawkins Singers, recorded one of Gospel’s earliest crossover hits, “Oh Happy Day.”  His wife, Tramaine Hawkins is an equally respected Gospel performer as well.  Hawkins went solo while forming his own church during the early ’70s.  His Love Center Choir won numerous accolades and found significant success with their Love Alive series which have sold in excess of one million copies.  1990’s Love Alive IV sat at the top of the Billboard Gospel charts of an astonishing thirty three weeks.  It has been reported that Hawkins contributed in one form or another to nearly 120 Gospel charting records.  Over the course of his career, he collaborated with the likes of Jeffrey Osborne, Sylvester, Van Morrison, and Diahann Carroll.  Bishop Walter Hawkins, age 61, died on July 11, 2010 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

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