Described by many as the Father of Contemporary Gospel, Edwin Hawkins returns to San Francisco this week (October 13-16, 2011) with the New Edwin Hawkins Singers. 40 years after breaking down barriers, and becoming the first of many accolades throughout Gospel – Hawkins can add first gospel act to perform at The Rrazz Room to the list of his many achievements.
With a new group of powerful singers that make up The New Edwin Hawkins Singers – they remain true to the Hawkins Sound!
Founded over 40 years ago after the success of the Northern California State Youth Choir – the Grammy Award Winning Edwin Hawkins & The Edwin Hawkins Singers remained at the top of the Gospel Charts with such hits as – “Every Man Wants to Be Free”, “Wonderful”, “If You Love Me”, and their signature remake of “Oh Happy Day”.
We recently had the honor of sitting down with Mr. Hawkins – affectionately called “Uncle Edwin” to countless people he mentors – to chat about his upcoming show, his impact and hopes for Gospel.
Faith in the Bay: How do you feel about the diversity and growth of choirs today?
Edwin Hawkins: Choirs have not always been diverse. We saw a lot of diversity very early on with the Music and Arts Seminar. Delegations from Japan would come, people from Germany and Sweden started to come to the seminar. That was exciting because since the beginning of our career of traveling to Europe, we knew that there was a great excitement about Gospel music in various countries, especially in Scandinavian countries. We did a conference in Japan a couple of years back and there were over 200 choirs…all Japanese. That was very exciting. Most of them don’t speak English – but they understand the Gospel. Many of them just love the music and don’t know Christ at first, but they come to know Christ after singing the Gospel.
FITB: From a songwriter and musicians’ perspective, what happens before the pen hits the pad?
EH: There is no set pattern to writing Gospel music or any music for that matter. You can come up with a great idea based on inspiration, things in life that God allows you to go through as a gospel writer; you might borrow something that you have heard from in a message, or an arrangement of a song that you’ve heard. Many gospel pieces that I’ve written come from all of those different directions. Sometimes it’s hearing a phrase from the pulpit, or a phrase in a song, or evening to secular radio stations as I do sometimes. I like contemporary jazz, so I might hear something there that might inspire me. There are many different ways.
FITB: What’s your hope for Gospel?
EH: I know that it will remain, because the love of music lives on forever, I just hope it maintains the integrity…the message of the gospel. I think it is part of my responsibility and others like myself who understand the ministry of Gospel music to keep it there. We often talk about hymns, but there are a lot of musicians who don’t know hardly any of the hymns. They will try to play it, and they are playing all of the wrong changes because they have not bothered to learn them. I think it is necessary to learn them. Time is a factor. We are usually learning a lot of new music, so we don’t take the time to learn them. A lot of younger musicians don’t know those songs, which is sad because that is the basis and the foundation of gospel music. There are some pastors that will require that you know hymns. We can’t do all the contemporary stuff all the time. Most young musicians don’t have appreciation for the pioneer groups like The Caravans and The Sally Martin Singers. They just don’t know who they are. It’s just not taught. We have to find that bridge.
FITB: What do you want people to know about The New Edwin Hawkins Singers?
EH: They are a wonderful group of singers! We are presently working in a project and looking forward to more traveling together.
FITB: Welcome to Twitter! Is it really you?
EH: Yes, it’s me (@iamEdwinHawkins). I’m new to it, but I have to catch up on technology. It’s a great tool to stay connected with a lot of people.
FITB: There’s talk of Love Alive VI. Can we look forward to something in the near future?
EH: It is not finished. My brother, Walter started writing, but we will finish what he started. We will be doing Love Alive VI. Hopefully between Spring and Fall of 2012.
Backed up by heavy weight musicians, David Blakely (Organ), Derrick Hall (Keys), Joel Smith (Bass), and Corey Baugh (Drums) – you don’t want to miss what’s sure to be a wonderful mixture of ministry, nostalgia, and outward appreciation for Gospel Legend Edwin Hawkins! Click here for ticket and event information.
Special thanks to both Kenneth Hall, and James Edmond