(Nov 23, 1946 - Dec 28, 2021)
Pastor Champion was a badass.
A preacher, a pastor, an outsider gospel singer who was raised in the Jim Crow South. He fled to California and joined a gang before becoming born again, spending the rest of his days traveling with his electric guitar to congregations and people’s homes from San Jose to Shreveport.
We started working with Champion a few years ago while we were researching another release, The Time for Peace Is Now: Gospel Music About Us. We found him on the YouTube channel of the 37th Street Baptist Church in Oakland, California, put together by their pastor Bishop Dr. W.C. McClinton. And we liked Champion so much that in 2018 we decided to make an album together, and to record it analog like the gospel recordings we love, on a two-track Nagra reel-to-reel.
There isn’t much known about Champion, except that the beloved soul singer Bettye Swann happened to be his sister and confidant— a secret that the pastor only shared later on. When we would ask Champion to talk about his life, he'd tell us that he’d had a hard life and he didn’t want to talk about it. He didn’t want to talk about growing up in Louisiana, his mother being accosted by the Klan, or about his father’s gambling. He didn’t want to talk about being jailed for 90 days for using a “whites-only” bathroom, being in gangs or having a street name. We said that was fine—he could talk about what he wanted to talk about. And he said that he didn’t really want to talk about anything.
Unfortunately those conversations ended as Pastor Champion died in December 2021, just before his first record and only record I Just Want To Be a Good Man was released. Now we have it as a remembrance of him. It's a tribute to both him and his wife, Mother Champion, who died just a few months earlier.
God bless Pastor Champion and Mother Champion, peace be with them and their family. Love to all.