Thursday

Obituary : Gospel and Blues singer Linda Hopkins dies at 92

Linda Hopkins, whose soaring, gospel-rooted voice was heard on Broadway in the one-woman show “Me and Bessie" and in the long-running revue “Black and Blue,” died on Monday.

Linda Hopkins was born Melinda Helen Matthews in New Orleans in 1927 and sadly passed away 10th April this year. Here she is on one of the tracks she recorded with Jackie Wilson in the early Sixties.

Known as "Lil Helen Matthews" as a child, she was discovered at the age of eleven by Mahalia Jackson when she persuaded Jackson to perform at a fundraiser at her home church, St. Mark's Baptist Church. Lil Helen opened the children's fundraising program with a rendition of Jackson's gospel hit, "God Shall Wipe Your Tears Away". Jackson was reportedly so impressed by Helen's determination and talent that she arranged for the young girl to join the Southern Harp Spiritual Singers in 1936. Hopkins remained with the group for a decade.

We join everyone else in mourning the loss of the great Linda Hopkins. I had the joy of working with her many times and the privilege of calling her a friend. "Artist" is not sufficient to describe her.

She was so much more than that. A consummate entertainer who gave every fiber of her being into every performance, whether at a high-priced stadium concert or a low-down bar. She could be beautifully groomed and elegant, or take her shoes off and down a bottle of beer in one big slug.

She loved her audiences and they loved her. She was totally unique in everything she did, but at the same time was the last of her generation of blues greats still performing. "The Kid" will never be replaced and heaven is now a little brighter. Thankfully we have many of her performances to still savor and enjoy. R.I.P. dear lady.

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