Funeral held for Albertina Walker, 'Queen of Gospel'

October 20, 2010 4:25:48 AM PDT
Aretha Franklin, the "Queen of Soul" sang her respects Friday to Chicago's Albertina Walker, the "Queen of Gospel". Franklin joined family, friends and others remembering Walker at her funeral.

Albertina Walker was a Grammy award-winning singer whose career spanned six decades.

Gospel music filled a South Side church for several hours as those who knew and loved Walker paid their final respects.

By the hundreds they came to the church that despite her fame she would not forsake, the relatively small West Point Baptist Sanctuary where Albertina Walker ministered through music and scholarship.

Walker took her genre-defining gospel style to the road in the early 1950s -- and with her group, the Caravans, she popularized a music its practitioners said one did not sing for money.

"After hearing them at church I began buying their records, and I used to lie down in my room and listen to the Caravans records until the grooves were white," said Franklin.

Walker was a Civil Rights-era pioneer who hoped to unite Americans as she uplifted her African-American community through song.

Many characterized her life as a gift

"She was a pioneer first of all. She was one of those blazed trails across this country when we had the gospel circuit," said Bishop Al Hobbes, National Gospel Announcers Guild. "It enabled the African-American community to continue to have that pride in that one place called the church where they could be whatever they needed to be."

"Albertina is always in our hearts. Lord Keep me day by day -- that was one of her songs and our faith teaches us that Albertina is in heaven and she's keeping us day by day," said Gov. Pat Quinn.

Walker's godchild, the daughter of a member of the Caravans, said Friday's going home ceremony caps a life that will never be forgotten.

"She has always encouraged and motivated and inspired me," said Dana Morgan. "The Bible said you train up a child in the way you think they should go and what they owe, and she trained me in excellence, and I am so thankful for that."

Walker was 81 and suffered from respiratory failure. She was born in Chicago in 1929. Her Caravans were the launching point for so many gospel greats, including the incomparable James Cleveland.

Her Grammy came in 1995 for Best Traditional Gospel Album, "Songs of the Church."

Walker recorded more than 60 albums in her career, packing churches and concert halls across the country. When she was just 22-years old, Walker started her own singing group called The Caravans.

"We have lost an American icon," said President Barack Obama.


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