Memphis Blues Artist Rev. John Wilkins Dead at 76

Memphis Blues Artist Rev. John Wilkins Dead at 76

Rev. John Wilkins—the Memphis singer-songwriter, guitarist, and preacher who fused gospel music, delta blues, and soul—has died at the age of 76. Wilkins’ label Goner Records confirmed the news on social media. “It is with a heavy heart and great sadness to share that Rev John Wilkins passed away this morning,” Goner wrote on Instagram. “It was an honor to know the Rev. and get to work with him in the small capacity that we did. His smile could light up the whole room.” Find Goner’s full statement below.

The cause of Wilkins’ death has not yet been revealed, however recent press materials for Wilkins’ latest album Trouble mentioned that the artist had “survived his battle with COVID-19” and was “resting at home surrounded by loved ones” following his illness, which involved a month-long stay in intensive care. Wilkins would have turned 77 on October 10.

Rev. John Wilkins was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of preacher and blues/folk-revival artist Reverend Robert Wilkins. John Wilkins was deeply influenced by his father’s work both in the music industry and the church. On his 2010 debut solo album You Can’t Hurry God, Wilkins recorded his father’s song “Prodigal Son” (the track was covered by the Rolling Stones on 1968’s Beggars Banquet).

Prior to his solo career, Wilkins sang with his father in church, and later with the M&N Gospel Singers. In the mid 1980s, Wilkins became the resident pastor at Hunter’s Chapel in Como, Mississippi.

Wilkins’ second and final solo album Trouble arrived last month. The 11-track album was recorded at Memphis’ Royal Studios with contributions from a number of session artists like guitarist Kevin Cubbins, keyboardist Rev. Charles Hodges, drummer Steve Potts, and more. Wilkins’ three daughters provided backing vocals on the record.

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