Gospel singer/songwriter Walter Hawkins lost his battle with pancreatic cancer Sunday at the age of 61 in his home in Ripon, California. His older brother released the following statement shortly after Hawkins’ death:

“Today, I lost my brother, my pastor, and my best friend,” said Edwin Hawkins. “Bishop Hawkins suffered bravely but now he will suffer no more and he will be greatly missed.”

Hawkins, an Oakland native, started his career off by collaborating with his brother Edwin on the hit Gospel track “Oh Happy Day,” which became one of the first gospel songs to cross over to mainstream charts.

He studied for his divinity degree at the University of California in Berkely after parting ways musically with his brother, and in between his studies he recorded his debut album Do Your Best in 1972. The following year, he become a pastor and founded the Love Center Church in Oakland, CA where he also formed a choir with which he recorded a number of hit records with, including “The Lord’s Prayer,” “Love Alive III,” “Love Alive IV,” all of which did really well on the top of the Billboard charts and won awards (“The Lord’s Prayer” won a Grammy in 1980 and he performed during the ceremony that year).

At the time of his death, Hawkins was planning a new CD concert recording for this fall called “Love Alive.” Funeral arrangements for the Gospel legend were pending at press time.

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