Linda Hopkins

Linda Hopkins (born December 14, 1924) is an African American actress and blues and gospel singer. She has recorded classic, traditional, and urban blues, and performed R and soul, jazz, and show tunes, all with distinction and style since the 1950s. She was born Melinda Helen Matthews in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, the second child of the Reverend Fred Matthews, Sr. and Hazel Smith. She grew up in the section of New Orleans known by the locals as "Zion City". She went to school in "Gert Town" which bordered the Xavier University of Louisiana. Known as "Lil Helen Matthews" as a child, she was discovered at the age of eleven by Mahalia Jackson when she persuaded Jackson to perform at a fundraiser at her home church, St. Mark's Baptist Church. Lil Helen opened the children's fundraising program with a rendition of Jackson's gospel hit, "God Shall Wipe Your Tears Away". Jackson was reportedly so impressed by Helen's determination and talent that she arranged for the young girl to join the Southern Harp Spiritual Singers in 1936. Hopkins remained with the group for a decade. She first saw Bessie Smith perform Empty Bed Blues at The New Orleans Palace Theatre in 1936.


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