(Photo of Darwin Hobbs and Traci Hobbs)
When it comes to Gospel music, and the men who sing it, the list is long, but if you compare it to the married men who sing Gospel and who are recognized nationally, the list is a bit shorter. On that short list of talented men is Darwin Hobbs, a man known for his vocal abilities and similarity to the classic soul singer Luther Vandross.
In his career as a gospel artist, Darwin Hobbs performed in the studio and for live background vocals for artists such as Switchfoot, Jars of Clay, BeBe Winans, Marvin Winans, CeCe Winans, Michael W. Smith, T.D. Jakes, Shirley Murdock, Michael McDonald, and countless others. Hobbs also played a small acting role in the HBO movie Boycott. His single “Everyday” appeared on the compilation album Soul Power.
Needless to say, but his roots in Gospel stand nearly thirty years strong, however, singing was never a consideration or something he ever thought would be a career choice. He says, “Believe it or not I never wanted to be a singer. I wanted to be a print journalist. Like, I wanted to be either a Sheilah Belle or an Anderson Cooper. I love them. I love Roland Martin, but I definitely didn’t choose music, music chose me.”
Hobbs said, it was when his mother got re-married, he started singing in the choir of his step-father’s church. This is also when he met Tracie, who he would later marry. She was already in the kids choir, singing alto and although she may not have been a lead singer, Hobbs says, “She was a great Alto!”
Eventually Hobbs found his way onto the Praise & Worship team of the church, but it was in 1990 or 1991 when there was a shift in the atmosphere. It was then when Hobbs says he started to do some singing with Rodney Posey. In 1993 Hobbs got married and moved to Nashville and by 1996 he had become a professional session singer. While in Nashville, Hobbs recorded over 700 studio sessions and was invited to sing with just about everyone who came through the recording studios. He was also not limited to singing only Gospel, but also delivered tracks for Country, R & B, CCM, Movie Sound Tracks and anything else that needed top vocal skills. Hobbs said, “I remember doing demo’s for Benson records back in the day and getting paid well.”
Back then it was usually the union members who were paid extremely well, but because Tennessee was a Right to work state Hobbs “got paid”. “Like once I made $8,000 in a week from just doing session work,” says Hobbs.
It was also around this time when Charlie Peacock, introduced Hobbs to Bill Hearn, as they were about to start EMI Gospel. This new found relationship would also bring him to the front door of Ken Pennell aka Mr. EMI. Hobbs says, “I think I was the first artist to sign with the label but I did not have the first release, but I know I was the first male artist on the EMI Gospel label.”
Meanwhile, just as his music career launches and lifts off in 1993, Hobbs was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Hobbs then found himself taking oral medication which later progressed to taking a shot of insulin every time he sat down to have a meal. Over time, Hobbs found himself later taking 2 types of insulin at one time. Before Hobbs realized, he was telling people, “I have had diabetes for 20 years” but even with that, there was a silver lining in the cloud. While fighting this disease, Hobbs said he was blessed to not have suffered from many complications from being a diabetic.
However, Hobbs eroding health seemed to be only just beginning. In 2003, Hobbs was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure. “I thought I was going to die. I didn’t know what to do or how to feel. I also learned then that my biological father also had congestive heart failure, which is a weakening of the heart.” For Hobbs, the over worked heart had become strained due to the massive person he had become. As a result, Hobbs, was then placed on heart medication.
In 2003 Hobbs decided to make some healthy heart changes. “I had thought about getting surgery as an option, but I also thought it was a cop out. It didn’t help also when someone I met died from the Gastric Bypass Surgery, so I tried some other options.”
Hobbs said his first major weight lost effort was through Optifast, when Oprah was pushing the product. Hobbs said, “I lost 70 pounds, however it was a liquid diet and like Oprah I regained the weight.”
Next he and his wife Traci checked into the Duke University Diet Center in 2005 which was $10,000 a month and sponsored by a very wealthy friend of theirs. Because this program is so intense, Hobbs and Tracie were required to live on location during their time for the program. So they moved to Raleigh Durham for thirty days. While there Hobbs lost about 60 pounds.” Hobbs says, while it was an amazing program, I still had not changed my mind about food.”
Hobbs list of weight efforts didn’t stop there. He said he had tried just about everything including Weight Watchers, South Beach, Grapefruit, Nutri System, and many many others. He even said, that he was so desperate to lose weight that when he was 16 he paid someone to hypnotize him. Even after that, Hobbs said, I did think about the surgery again, but I still wasn’t sold on the idea.
With losing weight still a priority for Hobbs, it didn’t help when he was diagnosed in 2006 with Sleep Apnea. Once again, as a result, Hobbs found himself having to sleep with a C-Pap machine, which helped him to sleep at night. It even got to the point, that Hobbs couldn’t take a nap without it.
Hobbs said, “One time when I was traveling back from D.C., I left the adapter to the machine in my hotel room and when I got home, I realized that I didn’t have it. After I made a call to my doctors, it wasn’t long after that when someone personally delivered one to my front door because it was vital for me to use the machine.
Now, with more mounting time, a growing list of health challenges and tipping the scale well over 400 pounds, Hobbs said, “It was then when I started to think about the lap band surgery. This is where they just put a band around your stomach and it controls your portions.” So in 2009, Hobbs gave in and had the surgery. He lost about 58 pounds, but again, gained it back because he had not changed his mind about food. Hobbs said, “I had still not made a decision to eat to live, but I was still living to eat.”
You would think after taking such a major step with the lap band, that Hobbs would eventually see some relief. Well, not so fast.
After the lap band, Hobbs developed a blood clot that eventually broke away from his calf, traveled up his leg, to his heart and landed in his lungs ultimately multiplying.
Hobbs says, “I remember that morning like it was yesterday. Traci and I were in Atlanta and we were headed for Indianapolis for the Yolanda Adams morning show, but I wasn’t feeling good, so I drove myself to the emergency room. When I got there, they took some X rays, and the doctor later came back and told me that a large blood clot in my leg had broken off and landed in my lungs.”
It was only a few hours earlier that Hobbs had a cramp in his calf and Tracie had attempted to massage it away not knowing it was a blood clot and that by massaging it, she had broken the blood clot up.
The doctor told Hobbs, “You shouldn’t even be here.”