Photo by Raymond Boyd/Getty Images
It is with deep sadness and great regret that we report the death of Albertina Walker. According to her publicist, the Gospel legend died this morning at 4:30 a.m. in her hometown Chicago.
In early September, rumors of Walker’s passing had spread so wildly that she posted a message on her Facebook page stating: “I’m still here no matter what you might have heard.” At the time, she was in ICU dealing with respiratory problems–a condition she battled for years, and kept her on ventilator for the last few years of her life.
On Tuesday, September 7th, Queen Albertina had a tracheostomy which doctors deemed a success, and late last month she checked out a Chicago hospital. The great news prompted many to believe that Walker was on the road to recovery. While she will be missed tremendously, we can take comfort in the fact that The Queen of Gospel has gone home to the Lord.
Born in Chicago on August 29, 1929, Albertina Walker began singing at the West Point Missionary Baptist Church at an early age, and joined several Gospel groups, beginning with The Pete Williams Singers, who came directly out of West Point Baptist Church.
Walker then moved on to join other groups, including The Robert Anderson Singers. Walker’s anchoring contralto proved to be a force to be reckoned with for decades to come, at once warm and inviting on solo forays, and with a resilience hard to match in a group setting.
In the 1950’s, Walker founded The Caravans, bringing with her fellow vocalists from The Robert Anderson Singers (Ora Lee Hopkins, Elyse Yancey and Nellie Grace Daniels). The group soon became one of the most popular and esteemed Gospel groups of the time, and a fluctuating membership brought in now-famous names such as James Cleveland, Bessie Griffin, Shirley Caesar, Dorothy Norwood, Inez Andrews, Loleatta Holloway and Cassietta George, The Caravans continued into the mid 1960’s, setting the standard for high profile Gospel.
The Caravans reunion with James Cleveland at the 1988 Stellar Awards
After the Caravans disbanded Walker herself soon entered the solo phase of her musical ministry.
In the mid 1970’s, Walker signed with Savoy Records and then Benson, Word, A&M and others, recording a series of solo projects, many of them with big church choirs, including The Evangelical Choir, The Cathedral of Love Choir, The Metro Mass choir, and her own church choir, The West Point Choir. She also recorded several projects together with James Cleveland —two of Gospel’s biggest names being an irresistible draw.
These albums yielded multiple Gold records and Grammy nominations, culminating with the 1994 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album for Songs of the Church, Live in Memphis on Benson Records.
Walker’s inviting vocal presence continued to be in demand in the late 1980’s and into the 1990’s, as she appeared on innumerable projects as a guest artist, including projects from The Gospel Music Workshop of America, Dorothy Norwood, Kenton Rogers, Allen & Allen, The GMWA Announcer’s Guild, The Canton Spirituals, Jeff Majors and Bill Gaither.
Through all the accolades, press, fame and attention, Albertina Walker has remained consistent in her devotion to the Body of Christ, earning the respect of not only those who remember her in her heyday, but also the new generation in Gospel music, who recognize devotion, dedication and perseverance.
Rest in peace, Queen Albertina.
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