Happy Black History Month!
The reigning First Lady of Contemporary Gospel Music, Tramaine Hawkins, was born Tramaine Aunzola Davis on October 11, 1951 in San Francisco, California. She started her career in 1966 as a member of the Heavenly Tones. The group recorded an album entitled I Love The Lord.
Tramaine joined The Edwin Hawkins Singers on their 1969 release entitled Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord, which featured the Grammy Winning, crossover hit Oh Happy Day (with Dorothy Combs Morrison). Her soaring soprano lead vocals were featured on the songs entitled I Heard The Voice Of Jesus (with Rueben Franklin and Donald Cashmere) and Joy, Joy (with Ruth Lyons).
Many Gospel Music Fans will be surprised to learn that the legendary Tramaine spent a short time in her career as a member of the R&B group Honey Cone, who recorded the hit song entitled Want Ads.
Tramaine became an official member of The Hawkins Family in 1971 when she married Walter Hawkins. This power couple became parents of two amazing children, Walter “Jamie” Hawkins, and Trystan Hawkins.
In 1973, The Edwin Hawkins Singers released an album entitled New World, which further featured the ground-breaking lead vocals of Tramaine Hawkins on the songs entitled Jubilation, Precious Memories, and Someday.
Starting in 1975, Tramaine became a principle lead singer with two of the Gospel Music Groups that moved the genre into a new era: Walter Hawkins & The Love Center Choir and The Hawkins Family. The songs that helped solidify Tramaine’s status The First Lady of Contemporary Gospel Music are: Changed, Goin’ Up Yonder, Jesus Christ Is The Way, He Brought Me, You’re Everything To Me, He’s That Kind Of Friend, and Coming Home.
In 1979, the album that launched Tramaine Hawkins’ career into the stratosphere was released and was simply entitled Tramaine. Music lovers inside and outside of the church were blown away by this album. The boundaries of Gospel Music were further expanded. The first song on the album entitled Look At Me is up beat and full of life and celebrates the fact that Christ has set us free! Every song on Tramaine is innovative and fresh.
This album was nominated for a Grammy in 1980 for the Best Soul Gospel Performance, Contemporary.
In 1983, Tramaine’s sophomore project was released entitled Determined. This album, which was produced by the late great Walter Hawkins, yielded many innovative hits, such as, Rescue Me, Set Me Free, and Can’t Find The Words. The most notable single from this album is the jazz-flavored Greatest Lover, which pushed the boundaries of people’s perception of Gospel Music.
This album was nominated for a Grammy is 1983 for the Best Gospel Performance (Female).
In 1985, Tramaine Hawkins set the Gospel Music Industry on its ear with the release of the 12-inch single entitled Fall Down (Spirit Of Love). During this time, she dropped her last name and was simple known as Tramaine. This release changed Gospel Music forever with its thumping beat and cross-over appeal. Many Gospel Music fans were shocked to learn that this song was being played on secular radio stations and in dance clubs. Ms. Hawkins actually performed this song in dance clubs, which was very controversial. Personally, I was so exited that Tramaine Hawkins lead the charge for Gospel Music Singers to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, which is a command that Jesus Christ has given to all of his followers. BRAVO, Lady Tramaine Hawkins!!!
In addition, to Fall Down (Spirt Of Love), two additional 12-inch singles entitled In The Morning Time, and Child Of The King were released to further solidify this new movement in Gospel Music.
In 1986, the album entitled The Search Is Over was released to rave reviews and applause by audiences both inside and outside of the church. This album included LP Versions of the hits that were mentioned earlier. The single, Everybody Ought To Know, is a “sho’nuff” Gospel Music song that demonstrates that Tramaine Hawkins is truly the First Lady Of Contemporary Gospel Music! If you have never heard Everybody Ought To Know, you are missing a major classic song.
This album was nominated for a Grammy in 1986 for Best Gospel Performance, Female.
In 1987, Tramaine further expanded the reach of Gospel Music once again. The album Freedom was released on compact disc (CD). Prior to the release of Freedom, no other major Gospel Music Artists had released music in this new revolutionary digital format. Personally, Freedom was the first CD I ever purchased.
The title sang Freedom was produced by Tito Jackson of the famous Jackson 5, with background vocals performed by Tito Jackson, Randy Jackson, Jackie Jackson, and Jermaine Jackson.
Freedom yielded two ground breaking 12-inch singles entitled Freedom and The Rock.
In 1988, Tramaine Hawkins reclaimed her last name and released an album entitled The Joy That Floods My Soul. This album yielded the more traditional sounding gospel music hit entitled What Shall I Do, which was written by Quincy Felding, Jr.
This album was nominated for a Grammy in 1988 for Best Soul Gospel Performance, Female.
In 1990, the album Tramaine Hawkins… Live! was released to triumphant reviews and applause. This project opens with I Still Want You, which features instrumental solos by the late great legendary Jazz saxophonist Stanley Turrentine. Next up, the song entitled The Potter’s House, which became a mega-hit and legendary duet with Walter Hawkins. This album yielded the first song written by Tramaine’s son, Jamie Hawkins, entitled Cheer Up. Two of the songs featured the legendary guitarist Carlos Santana entitled Who Is He and Lift Me Up. In my opinion, Praise The Name Of Jesus is the most powerful track on this album. This was one of the first Praise and Worship Songs recorded by a major Gospel Artist.
This album was such a musical triumph, it earned Tramaine Hawkins a Grammy Award in 1990 for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Performance.
In 1994, To A Higher Place was released to rave reviews and further expanded the scope of Gospel Music. This album contains a ground-breaking duet that is revolutionary, entitled I Found The Answer, which features the vocals of the late legend Mahalia Jackson. Another pleasant surprise that appears on this album occurs at the opening of the song It’s Never Too Late, which is narrated by the late legendary actor and civil rights activist Ossie Davis. In my opinion, the most-notable song on this album is Tramaine classic performance of Amazing Grace.
This album was nominated for a Grammy in 1994 for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album.
In 2001, Tramaine Hawkins released Still Tramaine which contains the last recorded duet with Walter Hawkins entitled It’s Your Power. This album is loaded with Gospel gems. The song entitled Justified By Faith is a song that reveals the fact that the Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ reconciles all of us back to God. By His Strength (Remix) is an awesome song to work out to while feeding your soul with encouragement.
Tramaine Hawkins’ latest release is entitled I Never Lost My Praise, which has introduced a whole new generation to the awesomeness of this living legend. This album features classic Tramaine Hawkins gems, such as, Excellent Lord which features vocals by Kurt Carr. The title song, I Never Lost My Praise, features background vocals by Patrick Lundy and The Ministers Of Music.
There are so many projects and artists that Tramaine Hawkins has contributed to that it is impossible to list them all. Some of the other artists that Tramaine Hawkins has worked with are West Angeles Church Of God In Christ Angelic Choir, Edwin Hawkins, The Rosa Parks Tribute Singers, and Shirley Miller.
Tramaine Hawkins continues to record and perform. She is a living legend!!!