‘Oh Happy Day’ Gospel Legend Edwin Hawkins, Dies At 74

Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Edwin Hawkins, who created the megahit, “Oh Happy Day” died on Monday at his home in Pleasanton, Calif. Hawkins death came after his long battle with pancreatic cancer, his publicist Bill Carpenter confirmed. Hawkins was 74.

There are a handful of gospel songs that last the test of time where everybody–and their mama–has heard it and enjoys it no matter when it comes on. “Oh Happy Day” is one of those songs. It’s been re-done literally thousands of times from high profile singers, to both small and big choirs, and independent films to big budget Hollywood movies.

A native of Oakland, Hawkins had been performing with his family and in church groups since he was a boy. In the late 1960s, when Hawkins was in his twenties, he helped form the Northern California State Youth Choir. The group recorded its first album, Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord.

The New York Times reports:

“The record rendered songs of praise with a rhythm-and-blues sensibility. A disc jockey at the Bay Area FM station KSAN, Abe Kesh, began playing one particular track, “Oh Happy Day.”

“The catchy song spread, and, with the group renamed the Edwin Hawkins Singers, it was released as a single and eventually reached No. 4 on the Billboard pop chart and No. 2 on the R&B chart.”

In 1970, “Oh Happy Day” won a Grammy for best soul gospel performance.

Hawkins’ younger brother Walter died in 2010 at the age of 61. Walter Hawkins — also a Grammy Award singer-songwriter and pastor of Love Center church in Oakland — died after a long bout with pancreatic cancer too.

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