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