Pleasanton, CA – Edwin Hawkins, the four-time Grammy® Award-winning leader of The Edwin Hawkins Singers’ 1969 million-seller, “Oh Happy Day,” died January 15th at his home in the Bay area, after a bout with pancreatic cancer. He was 74 years old.
“It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Dr. Edwin Hawkins –– a celebrated artist, innovator, and music icon. Though he will be greatly missed the world over, the message of love, life, and encouragement that he incorporated into his music gives us all the same hope that we’ll join him in heaven and sing `Oh Happy Day.’” the Hawkins Family said.
“Edwin Hawkins was not only a musical hero to me but he came to be a mentor and a close friend, “ said Grammy® winning singer/producer, Donald Lawrence. “His group also had a huge influence on Richard Smallwood who has known Edwin since Richard was 19 years old.” Smallwood adds, “Edwin changed the face of gospel music and helped create a fresh sounding genre that spread around the entire world. He was a humble and kind spirit that not only encouraged others who were privileged to meet him, but also inspired millions to be daring in their creativity.”
One of eight children, Edwin Hawkins was born August 19, 1943 in Oakland, CA and raised in the Campbell Village projects. He discovered music early and began playing the keyboards in the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) denomination at the age of five. He and his friend, Betty Watson, co-founded the 46-member strong, Northern California State Youth Choir, in 1967 so that they could attend the annual COGIC convention. They recorded an album, Let Us Go Into The House of The Lord, to finance the trip. The 500 copies they ordered didn’t come in time for the trek but one of the LPs eventually fell into the hands of a rock music DJ, Abe “Voco” Kesh, at KSAN-FM Radio. He began to play the Hippy-Soul song in the Bay area and soon the song’s success spread East.
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