Edgar O’Neal of the O’Neal Twins passes at 60
By Kenya Vaughn Of the St. Louis American
Edgar O’Neal, surviving member of the legendary local gospel group The O’Neal Twins, passed away from heart failure on Wednesday, Jan. 16. He was 60.
“This is a terrible loss,” said radio historian and American columnist Bernie Hayes. “Not only to me, but the St. Louis community and the entire gospel music genre.”
“I was blessed to have him as husband and a friend for over 30 years,” said Lillian O’Neal, his wife of nearly 13 years.
“They touched every denomination, they sang to everybody, all denominations, all people, and the love they had for God was the biggest message.”
Born on August 17, 1937 in St. Louis, the twins were reared in the Cote Brilliante neighborhood, attending Cupples School and Sumner High School before becoming household names in the spiritual music realm.
After being asked by gospel music pioneer James Cleveland, they exploded onto the music scene.
“They sang on some of the most popular venues in the world,” Edgar’s wife Lillian said. “Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall, you name it.”
The O'Neal Twins also recorded more than 20 albums on a variety of labels (Savoy, AIR Gospel, Creed, Peacock). They gained nationwide attention for their part on the Gospel documentary, Say Amen Somebody, which was released in 1986 and featured other local gospel music icons Zella Jackson Price and Willie Mae Ford Smith.
With Edgar on piano and voice, and Edward on vocals, The O’Neal Twins were trailblazers at a time when gospel quartets were a majority in gospel music. "Jesus Dropped The Charges," "Throw Out The Lifeline" and "Power In the Blood" were just some of the songs that illustrated their unique and unforgettable harmonies.
“Their contributions to gospel music were immeasurable,” Hayes said. “They were always innovators trying something new and vibrant. He and his brother were passionate and proud about their music and this city.”
Edward O’Neal passed away in 1990, but Edgar continued to build upon the legacy that they had established in their decades of performing. In 2004 The O’Neal Twins were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame along with CeCe Winans and Donnie McClurkin.
The O’Neal Twins song “Cant Let a Day Go By” was nominated for a Stellar Award, one of gospel music’s highest honors.
According to fellow Gospel Music Hall of Fame inductee Merdean Gales, The O’Neal Twins possessed a phenomenal sound that no one will ever forget.
“He gave to so many, with so little,” Gales said. “He didn’t wait for the big bucks to do it. Edgar gave with his talent - his big talent.”
Gales said that O’Neal was still effectively carrying on the tradition and ministry of he and his twin brother.
“They will never be forgotten,” Gales said. “As long has they are not forgotten, they will never be dead.”
Funeral services for Edgar O’Neal are as follows:
There will be a wake 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 24 and musical tribute from 7 p.m. - 8 p.m. with funeral services immediately following the tribute. Services will be held at Kossuth Temple COGIC, 3801 Clarence Ave 63115 where Elder Robert D. Strong Pastor.
Burial servies will be begin at 9 a.m. Friday morning (Jan. 25), leaving Austin Layne Funeral Home and proceeding to St. Peters Cemetery.
For more information regarding the homegoing services of Edgar O’Neal, call (314) 389-1889.