According to the New York Times, gospel singer Willa Ward passed away on August 12th at the age of 91 years old. The information was confirmed by her daughter Rita Scarlet.
Willa Ward was the last of the original Ward Singers, the most renowned of whom was her younger sister, Clara. The group was formed by their mother, Gertrude, who was singing at a church in Philadelphia when she brought her daughters to the pulpit in 1934. Both girls had mellifluous voices and piano training. First known as the Consecrated Gospel Singers, the group was soon singing in churches all along the East Coast.
In 1943 they performed at the National Baptist Convention in Nashville with Willa leading the song “If We Never Needed the Lord Before” (the next words were “we sure do need him now”). The song’s wartime message brought the group to national attention. With their dynamic surges and sudden octave-high leaps, the Wards and their evolving cast of singers, wearing rhinestone-studded choir gowns, would pack sports arenas and convention halls around the country.
Learn More About Willa Ward and The Ward Singers