With great expectations by the industry and fans alike of his most recent release, Love Alive V, The 25th Reunion, Bishop Walter Hawkins says he's glad to be part of contemporary Gospel music's worldwide growth. "There's always been controversy around modern versus traditional Gospel. What is tradition anyway? Gospel music doesn't have a particular style. Gospel's got to progress," say Hawkins. "We (The Edwin Hawkins Singers) had probably one of the major crossover Gospel songs of all time with 'Oh Happy Day', and it brought in a whole new generation of listeners". That song broke more than Gospel music barriers, it helped launch Hawkins' career.
At the age of 19 this San Francisco Bay Area native hadn't considered a musical life. His recording debut actually came anonymously when he sang in the Ephesian Church of God in Christ youth choir, a Berkeley, California-based church. To raise money to attend a convention in Washington, DC, the choir, directed by Hawkins' older brother Edwin, recorded an album, Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord in 1968 to sell locally. Astonishingly, a song from that album, "Oh Happy Day", became a pop hit the following year, selling over a million copies. In the next few years, the Edwin Hawkins Singers toured nationally and internationally before Walter set out on his own.
He entered the ministry and, in 1973, founded the Love Center Church in Oakland. With $1,800 borrowed from his mother-in-law, Hawkins returned to Ephesian with his Love Center Choir and recorded a live album, Going Up Yonder (released on Light Records) which rode the Gospel charts for months in 1975 and became a mainstay on billboard's Gospel Top 40 Chart for three consecutive years, making it one of the decade's biggest selling Gospel albums.
Beside his own recordings, Hawkins has collaborated with a number of other artists. With the Love Center Choir he appeared on Edwin Hawkins' Live with the Oakland Symphony LP and on recordings by Celt rockers Van Morrison and Lee Oskar. Hawkins himself has worked with Diahann Carroll, the late House music king Sylvester, R&B star Jeffrey Osborne as well as Gospel artists Vanessa Bell Armstrong, the Williams Brothers, and the Gospel Music Workshop of America.