In Memoriam: John “Buddy” Hopkins

On March 26, former Soul Train dancer John “Buddy” Hopkins passed away. He was 52 years old.

Hopkins was a multi-talented artist whose talents included being a singer, songwriter, musician, dancer, actor, videographer and photographer.

Born in Washington, D.C. on November 23, 1959, Hopkins came from a musical family. His mother, Dorothy, was a renowned jazz singer who, along with a band called Jap Curry & The Seven Blazers, recorded some 78 records.

While in school, Hopkins played various instruments such as the piano and saxophone.

Hopkins’ first big band experience happened through the Washington, D.C. recreation department. The government gave inner city youths jobs to play in a youth jazz band called The Little Giants of Jazz  under the direction of Claude Harrington. Hopkins was the lead solo saxophonist. “I was only 14 years old and this was the greatest opportunity for young musicians growing up in the hood,” said Hopkins.

Hopkins attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and while there, he trained to be a classical pianist. He loved classical music especially the composers Bethoven and Mozart even playing several of their piano sonatas in recitals.

Hopkins later attended Howard University as part of its Music Education program, where he received his first degree. Years later he received another degree in Liberal Arts.

Hopkins was also part of a popular family singing ensemble called The Hopkins Singers. The group consisted of John and his sisters Cynthia, Carolyn and Robin.

Hopkins eventually moved to Los Angeles where he became a Soul Train dancer from 1986 to 1990. According to Hopkins, the program’s coordinator Eric Caseem rejected him at the gate many times. But Hopkins was persistent and continued to come every month until he finally let him in. His days as a Soul Train dancer were among the greatest memories of his life.

After dancing on Soul Train, Hopkins landed a record deal. His first album, released on DeVree Records, included the club hit “I Feel Love”, which was among several songs Hopkins had written.

Hopkins later sang with the legendary Platters singing group and they toured many places around the world.

Hopkins loved life and was a friend to many. He will be missed but his spirit and legacy lives on. Indeed, he lived up to his motto, “Go for your dreams!”

A memorial will be held for Hopkins on April 3, 2012, at 2:00 pm Simpson’s Family Mortuary

3443 W, Manchester Blvd, Inglewood, CA 90305

(photos property of John “Buddy” Hopkins)

 Stephen McMillian

In addition to being a journalist, Stephen McMillian is also developing creative projects in the entertainment industry.



  1. david says:

    Damn! I met Buddy back in the 80s at a club we became friends .We were both aspiring songwriters He took me to his apartment one night and let me hear some music he had did it was good . In later years i moved and we lost touch for many years and i had no idea he had passed until 2yrs later in 2014. RIP my brother. You were a talented man. David

  2. Stephen McMillian says:

    You are very welcome Deborah. Indeed, Buddy touched many lives.

  3. Janeese says:

    My heart is broken! Having recently gotten married, I moved back mid-west and would speak with Buddy every now and then but email him every other month like clock work and he ALWAYS got back to me or would send me a post-card to let me know he was on tour some place. Buddy performed my ‘theme song’ for my local cable show back then and I even asked him to do another one for me; he did and said he would in the near future send me a tape of it too.

    When I first came on Soul Train in the late 80′ I grabbed Buddy as my Soul Train partner, then we would go on to doing “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve” for over 10 years; 2003 was our one we did together. We always said we would do ONE last ‘Rockin Eve’ together but God had other plans. Ironically, I email Buddy on March 25 and heard nothing back and did so again last week. For some reason, I just felt empty in my heart and missed my dear friend; I would tell him my problems, he would tell me his problems in life and not hearing from him prompted me to google him and I fould this “memorium” for my dearest friend. YOU ARE in heaven now, RIP my dear, dear, dear, dear friend…I’ll always love you. IF BUDDY’S FAMILY READ THIS PLEASE CONTACT ME, SO I CAN SEND YOU SOMETHING.
    —-JANEESE, one of your old dance pals…(we had fun!!!)

  4. Deborah Thomas says:

    John was one of my co-workers. He was a nice and kind man, that love his family a great deal. I called and prayed with John several times before his death, he was just an awesome friend and I will always think of the great office conversation we had. Thank you for writing this wonderful article.

  5. Stephen McMillian says:

    You are most welcome Robert. Indeed, Buddy was a special person and such a kind spirit. He will be missed.

  6. Freddie Maxie says:

    I danced in the early 70’s but I remember
    Watching Mr. Buddy’s dance style was so
    Centered-Long–as Smooth and I feel the
    Creativity within him. May the Lord Peace
    Be with him Forever and Ever.

  7. Robert Gee says:

    Stephen and the Soul Train family…thank you for remembering this beautiful soul…John “Buddy” Hopkins was a special man and I am glad our paths crossed in this life…Buddy I’ll see you next lifetime my friend…R.I.P.

  8. I send my condolences to the Hopkins Family. Very nice guy, always ready to dance, fun personality and boy could he dance.

    Another Soul Train angel on high.

  9. Derek says:

    ….Buddy*…..God Bless YOU….Heaven is HOME*

  10. Tim VHarrell says:

    This is so great Steve, and very well written. You have captured the essence of my long time friend and comrade. Thank you very much for sharing and further enlightening the world to John “Buddy” Hopkin’s many talents and his contribution to entertainment and the world. Well done my faithful friend.

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