CHICAGO - Albertina Walker, the Grammy-winning vocalist known around the world as the "Queen of Gospel" who helped launch some of the biggest names in traditional gospel through her vocal ensemble the Caravans, has died. She was 81.
Walker died Friday morning at RML Specialty Hospital Chicago of respiratory complications, said Pam Morris, who coordinated the Chicago Gospel Music Festival through 2009. She had been hospitalized since Aug. 29, her 81st birthday, having long suffered from emphysema.
Gospel music icons such as Dorothy Norwood, Shirley Caesar, Inez Andrews, Bessie Griffin and James Cleveland established their careers in the Caravans, who achieved wide fame in the late 1950s, headlining at Carnegie Hall and other high-profile venues.
Through the Caravans, Walker popularized the music she heard growing up on the South Side of Chicago; and the celebrated ensemble in turn made her a legend.