Linda Hopkins is an African American actress and blues and gospel singer.
She was born as Melinda Helen Matthews in New Orleans, Louisiana, the second child of the Reverend Fred Matthews, Sr. and Hazel Smith. She grew up in the section of New Orleans known by the locals as "Zion City". She went to school in "Gert Town" which border Xavier University.
Known as "Lil Helen Matthews" as a child, she was discovered at the age of eleven by Mahalia Jackson when she persuaded Jackson to perform at a fundraiser at her home church, St. Mark's Baptist Church. Lil Helen opened the children's fundraising program with a rendition of Jackson's gospel hit, God Shall Wipe Your Tears Away. Jackson was reportedly so impressed by Helen's determination and talent that she arranged for the young girl to join the Southern Harp Spiritual Singers in 1936. Hopkins remained with the group for a decade.
She first saw Bessie Smith perform Empty Bed Blues at The New Orleans Palace Theatre in 1936. Hopkins greatly admired Smith and later won critical plaudits for her rendition of Smith in the 1959 theatrical presentation Jazz Train. Matthews left New Orleans in the 1950s, and, in 1951, began performing at Slim Jenkin's Night Club in the Oakland/Richmond area. There she met Johnny Otis and Little Esther Phillips who created her stage name, Linda Hopkins. In 1952, Hopkins toured Hawaii and Japan for two years which included a stint with Louis Armstrong at The Brown Derby in Honolulu. She recorded for the Crystalette, Forecast, Federal and Atco labels and often appeared at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem.