Dr. Edwin Hawkins, Grammy award winning gospel composer and artist, passed away Monday morning. He was 74.
His passing comes days after the Hawkins family released a statement requesting prayers on his behalf.
The Oakland native, was a pioneer in revolutionizing Gospel music, ushering in a new contemporary gospel sound with his 1967-68 arrangement of the 18th century hymn “Oh Happy Day”. By 1969 the song became an international hit, and later became one of the Recording Industry Association of America’s Songs of the Century. To this day, most gospel artists performing internationally are still requested to include the song in their performances.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Hawkins Family, the Love Center Church, and all who loved him.
From his biography:
At the age of seven, Hawkins’ was already the keyboardist to accompany the family’s gospel group at the end of the 40’s. In 1957, they recorded their first record. In 1968, together with Betty Watson, they founded the Northern California State Youth Choir, which included almost 50 members. This ensemble recorded its first album “Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord” at the Ephesian Church of God in Christ in Berkeley, California, hoping to sell 500 copies. “Oh Happy Day” was just one of the eight songs on the album.
When the underground rock radio station KSAN-FM started to play “Oh Happy Day”, it became an immediate success, featuring the lead vocals of Dorothy Coombs Morrison, the subsequently released single rocketed to sales of over a million copies within two months. It crossed over to the pop charts making U.S. #4 and UK #2 in 1969. It then became an international success, selling more than 7 million copies worldwide, and Edwin Hawkins, was awarded his first Grammy. Hawkins’ arrangement of the song was eventually covered by The Four Seasons on their 1970 album Half & Half.
In 1970 the ensemble made a return appearance on the pop charts in support of Melanie on her hit “Lay Down (Candle in the Wind).” Edwin Hawkins remained a critical favorite, and in 1972 the Singers won a second Grammy for “Every Man Wants To Be Free”. Recording prolifically throughout the remainder of the decade, in 1980, they won a third Grammy for “Wonderful”; a fourth, for “If You Love Me”, followed three years later.
In 1982, Edwin Hawkins cut back on his work as live performing artist to have more time for his work as songwriter, producer and promoter of young talents, and founded the Edwin Hawkins Music & Arts Seminar. An annual week-long convention that offers workshops exploring all facets of the gospel industry and helping new artist get discovered by talent scouts. The Conference finishes each year with a live performance by the assembled mass choir.
- Grammy Award – 1970: Best Soul Gospel Performance – “Oh Happy Day”, performed by The Edwin Hawkins Singers;
- Grammy Award – 1971: Best Soul Gospel Performance – “Every Man Wants To Be Free”, performed by the Edwin Hawkins Singers;
- Grammy Award – 1978: Best Soul Gospel Performance – “Wonderful”, performed by the Edwin Hawkins Singers;
- Grammy Award – 1993: Best Gospel or Chorus Album – Choir Director on Edwin Hawkins Music & Arts Seminar Mass Choir – “If You Love Me”, Recorded Live in Oakland, Performed by the Music & Arts Seminar Mass Choir;
- Recipient of 2008 President Merit Award – Grammy Salute to Gospel Music, In Celebration of Black History Month; Award Presented by Grammy President Neil Portnow;
- Recipient of 2013 BMI Trailblazer of Gospel Award – Presented by Del Bryant, BMI President & CEO, and Catherine Brewton, BMI Vice President, Writer/Publisher Relations
- Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord (1968)
- Oh Happy Day (1969) (Buddah Records re-issue of previous 1968 LP)
- Hebrew Boys (1969)
- Ain’t It Like Him (1970)
- More Happy Days (1971)
- Peace Is Blowin’ In The Wind (1972)
- Children Get Together (1972)
- I’d Like To Teach the World To Sing (1973)
- New World (1974)
- Live (1974)
- Edwin Hawkins Presents the Matthews Sisters (1975)
- Wonderful (1976)
- The Comforter (1977)
- Imagine Heaven (1982)
- Live In Atlanta (1982)
- Live with the Oakland Symphony (1982)
- Music & Arts Seminar Mass Choir (1983)
- Live with the Oakland Symphony Vol. 2 (1984)
- Have Mercy with the Music & Arts Seminar Mass Choir (1985)
- Angels Will Be Singing w/the Music & Arts Seminar Mass Choir (1986)
- Give Us Peace w/the Music & Arts Seminar Mass Choir (1987)
- That Name w/the Music & Arts Seminar Mass Choir (1988)
- Face to Face (1990)
- Comforter (1990)
- Wonderful (1990)
- Music & Arts Seminar Chicago Mass Choir (1990)
- Seminar (1991)
- Music & Arts Seminar Mass Choir (1992)
- Oh Happy Day Reunion (1992)
- If You Love Me (1993)
- Imagine Heaven (1994)
- Christmas (1994)
- King & Kingdoms (1994)
- Edwin Hawkins Singers (1994)
- All Things Are Possible Live in Toledo (1995)
- Dallas Music & Arts Seminar Mass Choir (1997)
- Edwin Hawkins with Oakland Symphony Orchestra (1997)
- Love Is the Only Way (1998)
- Tampa Music & Arts Seminar (1998)
- Shine Your Light (2000)
- Church Time (2000)
- People In Need (2006)
- Testify w/the Music & Arts Seminar Mass Choir (2008)