From Gospel to Rock: The Musical Legacy of Oakland's African American Families

April 06, 2023 9:00 AM | Anonymous member

Oakland, California is known for its vibrant music scene, particularly in the African American community. Many families from Oakland have contributed greatly to the world of music, producing talented artists in a variety of genres. In this post, we will take a look at some of the most notable African American musical families from Oakland, and their contributions to the music industry.

The Pointer Sisters

Oakland, California has been home to several African American musical families over the years, with one of the most famous being The Pointer Sisters. The group, consisting of sisters June, Ruth, Anita, and Bonnie Pointer, got their start singing gospel music in their father's church in West Oakland.

The sisters began performing professionally in the late 1960s and released their first album, "The Pointer Sisters," in 1973. The album featured a mix of pop, R&B, and soul music, showcasing the sisters' versatility and unique style. They went on to release several hit songs and albums over the years, including "Yes We Can Can," "Fairytale," "Jump (For My Love)," and "I'm So Excited."

The Pointer Sisters became known for their dynamic performances, intricate harmonies, and infectious energy. They were one of the first groups to successfully blend genres like pop, R&B, country, and rock, paving the way for future generations of musicians.

In addition to their musical success, the Pointer Sisters were also known for their activism and philanthropy. They supported various causes, including the fight against AIDS, and were honored for their contributions to the community with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Despite changes in the music industry over the years, the Pointer Sisters remain an iconic group and continue to inspire and influence musicians today. Their music and legacy serve as a reminder of the rich musical history and culture of African Americans in Oakland and beyond.

The Hawkins Family

The Hawkins family is a name synonymous with gospel music and is among the most prominent musical families from Oakland, CA. Led by Edwin Hawkins, the family has made significant contributions to the gospel music genre and continues to inspire generations of musicians.

Edwin Hawkins is the most famous member of the Hawkins family and is best known for his 1969 hit "Oh Happy Day." The song became a worldwide sensation and won a Grammy award. Edwin's siblings, Walter, Lynette, and Tramaine, also had successful careers in gospel music, with Tramaine achieving mainstream success with her hit song "Fall Down (Spirit of Love)."

The Hawkins family's musical journey started in the 1950s when Edwin and his brothers formed the group "The Hawkins Family." The group began performing in local churches in Oakland and quickly gained popularity. In the 1960s, the family formed "The Edwin Hawkins Singers," and their first album, "Let Us Go into the House of the Lord," was released in 1968.

The album featured the hit single "Oh Happy Day," which was originally a gospel hymn. Edwin Hawkins and his team rearranged the song, adding contemporary elements to it, and the resulting track became a massive hit. The song's success brought gospel music to a mainstream audience, and it became an anthem for the civil rights movement.

In addition to Edwin, the Hawkins family has produced other notable gospel artists, including Walter Hawkins, Lynette Hawkins Stephens, and Tramaine Hawkins. Walter Hawkins had a successful solo career, and his hits include "I Love You, Lord," "Changed," and "Going Up Yonder." Lynette Hawkins Stephens also had a successful solo career and is best known for her hit song "He'll Make a Way."

Tramaine Hawkins achieved mainstream success with her hit song "Fall Down (Spirit of Love)," which reached number one on the US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart. She also worked with notable artists like Quincy Jones, Whitney Houston, and Andraé Crouch.

The Hawkins family's contribution to gospel music has been immense and has earned them numerous awards and honors, including Grammy awards, Stellar Awards, and induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Their music has inspired generations of gospel musicians and continues to uplift and encourage listeners around the world.

In conclusion, the Hawkins family is a testament to the rich musical heritage of Oakland, CA. Their legacy in gospel music is a reminder of the power of music to inspire, unite, and uplift people, regardless of their background or beliefs.

The Dwayne Wiggins Family

The Wiggins family is known for their contributions to R&B and soul music. The family includes Dwayne Wiggins, a guitarist and founding member of the group Tony! Toni! Toné!, and his brothers Antoine and Raphael, who are also musicians.

Tony! Toni! Toné! burst onto the scene in the late 1980s with their debut album "Who?". The album included the hit single "Little Walter" and established the group as a major force in the R&B and soul music scene. Their follow-up album, "The Revival", was even more successful, with hits like "Feels Good" and "It Never Rains (In Southern California)".

The success of Tony! Toni! Toné! continued through the early 1990s, with the release of their album "Sons of Soul" in 1993. The album featured classic tracks like "If I Had No Loot" and "Anniversary", and solidified the group's place in the pantheon of R&B and soul music.

In addition to his work with Tony! Toni! Toné!, Dwayne Wiggins has also worked as a producer and has collaborated with a number of other artists over the years. His brothers, Antoine and Raphael, have also been involved in various musical projects.

The Wiggins family's contributions to R&B and soul music have had a lasting impact on the genre, and their influence can still be felt today. Their legacy is a testament to the rich musical history of Oakland, and the city's ongoing cultural contributions to the world.

African American Families Shaped the Music Industry

These are just a few of the many African American musical families from Oakland that have left their mark on the music industry. From gospel to R&B to jazz, these families have contributed to a variety of genres and continue to inspire musicians today.

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