Praise 104.7 Featured Video

Exclusive — By Sheilah Belle

(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.” 

He was later admitted to the hospital and stayed there for two weeks.  He was also put on a popular blood thinner called Coumadin.  Hobbs said, “Some people go on this for the rest of their life.  I was only on it for three months and while I was still eating less food, I was also still eating the wrong foods.”

As Hobbs continued to tell his story he paused for a moment and said, “You know even before all of this happened, I had some issues back when I was 13 or 14.  It was then I had hip surgery for a Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphis.”  He said, that surgery was a result of being overweight as an adolescent and by the time he reached his early 20’s he suffered from arthritis.” He said I’m remembering that because it was just last year when that pain returned and became so unbearable that I decided to have Hip surgery, making 2011 another banner year of challenges at the age of 43.”

With the Hip Surgery, Hobbs weight challenges continued to stare him in the face, now even more so when the doctor told him that the new hip hardware will only last but so long, and will wear down quickly as long as he stays the same size…this added to his already knee problems and other joint issues that were now starting to bother him daily.

Over time coupled with two years of therapy in 2009 and 2010, Hobbs realized that he was using food as a comfort. “When I traced back my history of eating, it was when I was being sexually abused by my step father, my appetite intensified.”  Hobbs said, “I reached a lot of resolve and found much closure about what had happened to me. I was so confused and angry about life and that I had become an angry person.  I had some power taken from me and ended up growing up aggressive and temperamental.  This had also became my way of controlling my life and making sure no one would hurt me again.”

Hobbs says, “I was sexually abused when I was 11 and 12 years old.  I can only imagine what some of those students went through at Penn State.  I am sincerely praying for them.”

It wouldn’t be until January 2012, when Hobbs would make the big decision to have Gastric Bypass Surgery by one of the best surgeons in the business, Dr. Titus Duncan.  Hobbs said, he was encouraged to have the surgery.  My cardiologist told me, “If you can make it through your hip replacement surgery, you can make it through the Gastric Bypass surgery.

After making his decision, Tracie, also considered having the surgery and ultimately decided to have the Gastric Sleeve surgery, which is less invasive and considered by some safer than the Gastric Bypass.  So, finally they both set dates for the surgery.  Hobbs was set for May 24th and Tracie’s was set for June 1st…ten after her husbands.

Hobbs said, “I had my surgery that morning and by that evening I was walking down the hospital hallway.  Tracie had surgery in the morning as well on her surgery date and was at home the following morning.  With surgery like that, they like to keep you moving.”

Now ten months later, Hobbs says, he can only eat 4 ounces of food at any given time.  With Tracie’s surgery, 80% of her stomach was removed and stapled back together.  Hobbs says, with the Gastric Bypass surgery, the route that food now takes to enter and exit his body is much shorter.  Taking vitamins are essential now as well because his body can no longer hold as much.  He added, “Some people experience hair lost as a side effect, because they don’t follow the doctors orders closely.”

It’s been five months since the surgery and to date Hobbs has lost an amazing 100 pounds while his wife has lost 70 pounds. 

Hobbs says, “This is not anything to play with!  You have to do what the doctor says, because again, the surgery doesn’t change your mind, it alters how your body processes the food and how much you can eat.  For example we went out to dinner the other day and we ordered some chicken fingers.  They brought us six.  I could only eat just one chicken finger but my mind was telling me I wanted more.  So yeah, this has been an adjustment.”

If things continue to improve, Hobbs and Traci will be adjusting to much more by next year, the two are believing God to help them to become pregnant with their first child.  Hobbs says, currently they are both “Happy through the roof and know that things will continue to get only better.

Hobbs said, when he first laid down on that table he weighed 426 pounds.  He says his goal is 220.

When asked about his family’s response to his new frame work, he said, “they all cried.”  “They were all so happy for me. Even when I think about the simple things, it all means to much to me.  I’ve been singing for 20 or 30 years now.  I never traveled on a plane without using a seatbelt extension, now I don’t use it anymore. For the longest time, simply getting on and off the plane was a struggle.”   

“When Traci and I go to a restaurant we would never sit in a booth but a table to make sure we had enough room.  We even had to take into consideration the type of car we needed to purchase to make sure we had enough room and that we would fit in the car seat.”

Hobbs continued, “Even during conferences was a struggle, because of the challenge of just walking to the stage.  I wasn’t happy.  I was in pain and I was constantly complaining.”  Hobbs also says that he is also starting to shed some spiritual weight lost as well, from not trusting people, being cynical and being quick with the tongue. 

In looking back, Hobbs said he’s also pretty certain he has been overlooked for singing opportunity over the years because of his weight. “Sometimes while leading Praise & Worship I could see people in the congregation literally distracted from my singing ministry because they were too busy looking at my weight.”

“But look at us now.  We are healthier people on the inside and we feel so much better about ourselves. We are both happy about becoming a smaller person.   We are working out five times a week, with three days of cardio and two days of strength training.

Hobbs says, While there are “lots of people who have opted to have this surgery and who have opted not to share it, I think if your life is given to the people, you should share your entire testimony with the people, and if Gastric Bypass surgery is apart of it, then you should share that as well”.

In the meantime, stay tune as Hobbs starts working on his next CD release, which will mark his first Pop/R & B album, dedicated to his wife, Traci.

Courtesy of