“She was the pied piper of love,” said adopted daughter Guadalupe of jazz and blues legend Linda Hopkins
A memorial is being held for Hopkins, who passed away on April 10, at the Second Baptist Church in Los Angeles on May 2. Hopkins died in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was 92.
She was born Melinda Helen Matthews on December 14, 1924 in New Orleans, Louisiana, the second child of the Reverend Fred Matthews, Sr. and Hazel Smith. Her musical career began in 1935 at age 11, when Gospel legend Mahalia Jackson came to sing at Hopkins’ church. The little girl opened the fundraiser with Jackson’s “God Shall Wipe Your Tears Away”, impressing the singer so much, she arranged for her to join the Southern Harp Spiritual Singers in 1936. Hopkins remained with the group until 1946.
She headed west in 1950 and began performing in Oakland, California. She met fellow performers, Johnny Otis and Little Esther Phillips there, who gave her the stage name Linda Hopkins. Her career spanned more than five decades taking her all over the world. She gained notoriety with performances in Broadway hit Purlie and musical review Black and Blue.
Hopkins toured with Broadway Express in 1960 and recorded her sole number one hit “Shake a Hand” with Jackie Wilson in 1963. She wrote and starred in the one woman show Me and Bessie, a dedication to Bessie Smith, whom Hopkins admired. In 1972 she won a Tony Award for her role in Inner City.
Wrote one New York Times critic of that show, “So far as I’m concerned, they can throw away the rest of Inner City and just let a lady named Linda Hopkins stand there all night, tapping one foot slightly, opening her composed mouth to let miraculous sounds come out of it, reaching out her arms to the balcony as though to complete its curve and make the world come full circle, shaking her head very slightly in deep private worry as she stalks to the portals, done with a song. She is magnificent…”
“She was friends with kings and queens all over this world,” said Guadalupe.
“People are flying in from [as far as] Europe to pay their respects. She had many people who she loved all over this world.”
Hopkins received her star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood in front of the Pantages Theater in 2005
Her signature ending line was “see y’all! Love you very much,” Guadalupe said.
Second Baptist Church is located at 2412 Griffith Ave. in Los Angeles, services begin at 1:00 pm. A repast will be held at the California Jazz and Blues Museum located at 4317 Degnan Blvd. also in Los Angeles.