Gospel music legend Bishop Walter Hawkins has died at age 61.
The Grammy Award-winning contemporary gospel singer succumbed to a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer at his home in Ripon, Calif. on Sunday.
"Today, I lost my brother, my pastor and my best friend," said Hawkins' brother, Edwin Hawkins. "Bishop Hawkins suffered bravely but now he will suffer no more and he will be greatly missed."
During his 30-plus-year career in gospel, which consisted of at least 14 albums since 1975, Hawkins created an extensive catalog of music both as a solo artist and with his family ensemble.
Songs like 'Thank You,' 'Marvelous,' 'Going Up Yonder,' 'Holy One,' 'Be Grateful,' 'It's Right and Good' and countless others have become anthems, earning Hawkins an induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame as well as a Trailblazer Award by his music publishing company, BMI.
A singer, songwriter, producer and arranger, Hawkins found himself collaborating with artists from rocker Van Morrison, R&B star Jeffrey Osborne, actress Diahann Carroll and the late disco king Sylvester to gospel greats like Richard Smallwood, Donald Lawrence, Mississippi Mass Choir and the Williams Brothers.
In 2006, Hawkins along with brother Edwin, ex-wife Tramaine Hawkins and sister Lynette Hawkins Stephens famously performed during Oprah Winfrey's Legend's Ball Gospel Brunch.
Hawkins was also the pastor of the Love Center Church, a ministry he founded in Oakland, Calif. in 1973.
He was married to gospel great Tramaine Hawkins but the two divorced.
Hawkins is survived by his two children, Trystan Hawkins and R&B singer Walter "Jamie" Hawkins, Jr. ; daughter-in-law, gospel singer Myiia "Sunny" Hawkins; two grandchildren Jamie-Daniel and Jahve; a host of nieces and nephews; and his siblings Carol, Feddie, Edwin, Daniel, and Lynette.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
The music industry was saddened by the news of Hawkins' passing.
Gospel veteran Kurt Carr told BV Buzzthat the first gospel song he ever learned was by Hawkins.
"'Jesus Christ is the Way!' That's the record that drew me to Christ. I learned to play piano to that record. Picking out the parts is how I learned to teach choirs. It was the first gospel record I had ever heard," he shared before adding: "To later work with Tramaine was the ultimate full circle moment in my life."
R&B singer Dave Hollister posted on his Twitter page: "R.I.P. to a gospel icon and trailblazer Bishop Walter Hawkins! My heart is deeply saddened! You will be missed!"
Many artists joined suit in the social networking realm to share condolences.
"Please be in prayer for the Hawkins Family, the Love Center Church and ALL of us in the passing of Bishop Walter Hawkins." – Asked Richard Smallwood.
"RIP to Bishop Walter Hawkins...a pioneer in Christian Music Ministry. You are forever loved and cherished." – Said 'American Idol' finalist Anwar Robinson.
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