*Pleasanton, CA – Edwin Hawkins, the four-time Grammy® Award-winning leader of The Edwin Hawkins Singers’ 1969 million-seller, “Oh Happy Day,” died January 15 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.”
Hawkins often toured with his younger and equally successful singing brother, Walter, and Walter’s then wife, Tramaine, as The Hawkins Family in the 1970s. Their energetic stage show filled civic centers and concert halls across the world, including D.A.R. Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Edwin Hawkins, with his group and as a soloist, continued to make gospel radio hits throughout the next two decades including, “Worship The Lord,” “God Will Take Care of You,” “Give Me A Star” and “To My Father’s House.” In recent years, Hawkins recorded occasionally and toured largely in Europe. He also sponsored the Edwin Hawkins Music & Arts Seminar to teach the next generation of musicians the business of music. “This is a sad day in music,” says Liz Black, midday radio host for WLIB, a gospel radio station in New York City. “I knew and loved Edwin Hawkins’ music even before I was in the church and I know that I’m not alone in that.”
In 2001, The Recording Industry Association of America (R.I.A.A.) ranked “Oh Happy Day” No. 63 on its Top 365 Songs of the 20th Century listing. The song has been covered by dozens of artists, including Quincy Jones, Johnny Mathis, Glen Campbell, Aretha Franklin, Jason Mraz, Susan Boyle, The Oak Ridge Boys and Elvis Presley.
Hawkins is survived by his siblings Carol, Feddie, Daniel, and Lynette. Funeral arrangements are pending.