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Passings: Edwin Hawkins, Leader of the Edwin Hawkins Singers (1943 - 2018)

by VVN Music

Edwin Hawkins, the gospel great who brought the genre to the masses with the 1969 hit "Oh Happy Day", has died at the age of 74. According to reports, he had been ill for some time.

On January 11, his management team posted that Hawkins was experiencing "several health challenges". "We appreciate your prayers and well wishes during this difficult time."

Fred Hammond wrote "My family @bebewinans just in formed me Of the passing of a true gospel music legend, and father of contemporary gospel music Edwin Hawkins."

Hawkins was already playing keyboards for his family's gospel choir at the age of seven and later co-founded the Northern California State Youth Choir which, in 1968, recorded the album Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord.

One of the songs on the album, "Oh Happy Day", sung by Dorothy Morrison, was picked up in the San Francisco Bay area on underground radio stations and it eventually branched out to both the R&B and pop formats.  Buddah Records picked up the song for their new Pavilion label and released it worldwide where it went to number 4 in the U.S., number 2 in the U.K. and number 1 in France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Hawkins won the first of his four Grammy awards for "Oh Happy Day" in the category of Best Soul Gospel Performance.  He would win that category two more times, in 1971 for "Every Man Wants to Be Free" and 1978 for "Wonderful". He also won Best Gospel Choir or Chorus Album in 1993 for Edwin Hawkins Music & Arts Seminar Mass Choir: Recorded Live in Los Angeles.  The latter was recorded at Hawkins' annual seminar and workshops on the gospel music industry.

In 1971, the Edwin Hawkins Singers were once again on the pop charts in support of Melanie on the single "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" which went to number 6.

Over his lifetime, Hawkins and his singers would release over three dozen albums with Edwin being recognized as one of the greats of contemporary gospel music.  He was selected for the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2007.