Albertina Walker, a Grammy Award-winning singer who was crowned the queen of gospel during a career that spanned more than 60 albums and six decades died Oct. 8 of respiratory failure at a hospital in her native Chicago. She was 81.
In her early 20s, Walker started an ensemble group, the Caravans, which became one of the country’s most popular gospel acts during the 1950s and ’60s.
The Caravans toured by Cadillac, eventually graduating from performances in churches and schools to theaters and auditoriums. Traveling to venues including Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater and Washington’s Constitution Hall, they endured low pay, segregated restaurants and discrimination at hotels and restaurants.
The group broke up in the late 1960s as its members peeled off to launch solo careers. Walker made her solo debut with the 1975 album “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” She went on to collaborate with James Cleveland on “Please Be Patient With Me” (1979), for which she received her first Grammy nomination.