By Bob Marovich
The Reverend Joe Williams informed JGM that Professor Irvin Brockington has passed away. He was 83.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 9, 1936, to Elizabeth and Irvin Brockington Sr., Irvin Jr. was raised with seven brothers, one sister, and a family whose life revolved around music and the Church of God. Young Irvin Jr. began playing piano at age eight and by his teenage years, he was playing for the Church of God. He later moved to Ebenezer Church of God in Christ.
The first ensemble Brockington assembled was called the Fairmount Gospel Singers. It consisted of Irvin Jr., his brother Charles, and two cousins. He also organized the True Lights and Spirit Tones aggregations.
The Brockington Chorale Ensemble was formed in late 1963. Two years later, the choir recorded its first singles for the Philly-based Arctic label, starting with the exciting two-part “How I Got Over.” The group had a prolific recording career, releasing singles and albums during the 1960s and 1970s on the HOB, Savoy, TCS, TSOP, Pray/Virtue, and Sweet Rain labels. In 1969, not long after the Edwin Hawkins Singers’ “Oh Happy Day” hit national pop radio, the Brockington Ensemble recorded a version of their own for HOB. Other popular singles by the choir included “Stretch Out” and “’Tis So Sweet.”
The Brockington Ensemble was among the 250 members of the inaugural Gospel Music Workshop of America Mass Choir.
In his later years, Prof. Brockington accompanied the choirs at Refuge Apostolic Church of Christ in Philadelphia. Williams called Brockington a “prodigy” who could play all kinds of music, from rock ‘n’ roll to gospel.
Though they don’t get the same recognition, the Philadelphia Brockingtons have been as involved in the development of contemporary gospel music as other family dynasties such as the Moss-Clarks and Winans of Detroit, the Hawkins Family of Oakland, and the Lenoxes of Chicago.
An interview with Prof. Brockington is available at: