Friday, January 02, 2009


when i was a child, tremaine hawkins' voice was absolutely everywhere. she was married to one of the hawkins' brothers, sang with the LOVE Alive choir and was (and still is, some years later) a powerhouse of a performer. i remember wishing that i could sing like her. many an afternoon found me sitting and listening and imitating what i heard but that wasn't really what i wanted. i was drawn to the overwhelming passion in her delivery, but i knew that there was more than feelings involved. i knew how to sing, and i knew how to sing with feeling and i knew that i didn't have what she had. so the differentiation between feeling and that something else was understood.

if all of that weren't enough, it was the 70s. the radio was filled with people singing with feeling. the television was filled with variety shows that would have entire segments devoted to these "singing with feeling" people, strumming their guitars and their lutes and whatever else they could caress sincerely, staring glassy-eyed beyond the camera, to something that was beyond any of us. there was even a hit song at the time, called (appropriately enough) feelings. nothing could get more touchy-feely than that. and yet as time went on, that's exactly what happened. but i digress.

sitting in the living room, playing tremaine's songs over and over and over again, singing them to myself, watching the mac davis (a texan, by the way -- remember that huuuuge elvis presley song in the ghetto? yeah, well, mac wrote it...) show on tv, hearing david soul (another actor who was really a singer) on the mike douglas show singing don't give up on us -- nobody had to tell me. i knew. this woman's voice was something that was touched by the divine. mrs. hawkins was anointed. in retrospect, what i wanted was to sing with that anointing. i was raised COGIC and so i understood very well that i couldn't will my voice into such a state. it was simply the presence of God resting upon her soul.

of the hawkins brothers, walter had his brilliant moments with the LOVE Alive choir and many great songs but it was edwin who revolutionized gospel music with his rearrangement of the 17/18th century hymn oh happy day -- with full choir and a conga back beat, no less. (you don't even want to know what the original sounds like.) these were the same hawkins brothers who hung out with andrae crouch and his twin sister sandra as kids. much like the stewarts, who also lived in the bay area, sang gospel with their mother as the stewart four and whose son sylvester would break away from his gospel-soaked upbringing, delve into secular music and change the world, too.

and you know who recorded with them, sang with them, and attended bishop walter hawkins' church up until he died? that's right. sylvester.

interestingly, they were all COGIC.

in the same way that i tilt my head and look at people differently when they tell me that of course they're musically sophisitcated, of course they love jazz but they don't like ornette, i have to wonder about musicians who love sly stone (a texan, by the way) and who don't "get" his gospel roots, or know who andrae crouch is.

this song still resonates, still transcends, after all this time. she's an old lady and her voice is as clear as a bell and she's still on fire.

...and yes. this song is just the tip of the iceberg.

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