July 23, 2024
Acclaimed gospel singer Sunny Hawkins had worked with Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Luther Vandross, Chaka Khan, Ray Charles and others.

Bay Area gospel music star Maiia “Sunny” Hawkins, who had worked with Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Luther Vandross, Chaka Khan, Ray Charles and other well-known artists, died on Sept. 4.

“I am sad to report that (Maiia) passed away on Monday morning 9/4/2023 after a long fight with this cancer,” an update reads on her GoFundMe page, which raised over $40,000 for her battle against cancer. ” We were with her to her last breath and she is finally at peace. Any new donations and all old donations will go to her kids and medical bills. Thank you again for being such a help during this difficult time.”

The acclaimed Oakland singer had been battling stage IV breast cancer for several years, according to a post about Hawkins’ passing on soultracks.com.

The Oakland native will be remembered for her tremendous singing voice, which she put to great use in her own solo career as well in collaboration with other acclaimed artists. She was also a notable songwriter, who worked in R&B, soul and other styles and penned hits for Aretha Franklin (2003’s “The Only Thing”) and Patti LaBelle (2004’s “Good Lovin”).

She was a member of the East Bay’s legendary Hawkins gospel music family and was married to Walter Jamie Hawkins, the senior pastor at the Transforming Love Christian Center in Castro Valley as well as a noted producer/writer/musical director whose credits include working with Jodeci, MC Hammer, Donnell Jones, Boyz II Men, Lauren Hill and others. The couple reportedly had six children.

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Walter Jamie Hawkins posted a video on his Facebook page on Sept. 4, informing people that his wife had died — just hours prior — and managing to show much gratitude and faith even in the midst of all his pain.

“I want to say to all of you who followed our journey and supported us, we are grateful to you,” said Jamie Hawkins, wearing a shirt that read “Know God’s Word. Make Him known.” “We ask that you would allow us some privacy to deal with what the Lord has decided. I thank all of you again for your respect and your love and your appreciation and your gifts, your prayers, your time, well wishes.

“God bless. We love you. Please pray for us as we are praying for you. We trust in God.”

Sunny Hawkins’ involvement in gospel music goes back to her early childhood, having reportedly begun singing at Love Center Ministries in Oakland when she was just 2 years old. Her godparents were Bay Area gospel greats Walter and Tremaine Hawkins, which seemed to further assure a career path in church music.

Besides performing gospel music and working with a regular who’s who of R&B and soul greats, Hawkins also spent time on Broadway as one of the lead characters in the popular musical “Rent.”