born on 18/8/1943 in Oakland, CA, United States
died on 15/1/2018 in Pleasanton, CA, United States
Edwin Hawkins (born August 18, 1943, Oakland, California) is an American gospel musician, pianist, choir master, composer, and arranger. He is one of the originators of the urban contemporary gospel sound. He (and the Edwin Hawkins Singers) is (are) best known for his arrangement of "Oh Happy Day" (196869), which was included on the Songs of the Century list. The Edwin Hawkins Singers made a second foray into the charts exactly one year later, backing folk singer Melanie on "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)".
At the age of seven Hawkins was already the keyboardist to accompany the family's gospel choir. Together with Betty Watson, he was the co-founder of the Northern California State Youth Choir of the Church of God in Christ, which included almost fifty 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 privately (on the Century 70 custom label), hoping to sell 500 copies. "Oh Happy Day" was just one of the eight songs on the album. (The soloists in the album were Elaine Kelly, Margarette Branch, Dorothy Combs Morrison, Tramaine Davis, Reuben Franklin, Donald Cashmere, Betty Watson, and Ruth Lyons.)
When radio stations of the San Francisco Bay area started playing "Oh Happy Day", it became very popular. Featuring the lead vocal of Dorothy Combs Morrison, the subsequently released single (on the newly created Pavilion label distributed by Buddah) rocketed to sales of over a million copies within two months. It crossed over to the pop charts making U.S. No. 4, UK No. 2 and No. 1 on the German Singles Charts in 1969. It then became an international success, selling more than 7 million copies worldwide, and Hawkins was awarded his first Grammy for it. Hawkins' arrangement of the song was eventually covered by The Four Seasons on their 1970 album Half & Half. In the 1992 movie Leap of Faith, Hawkins was the choir master for the gospel songs.
- 1968: Let Us Go into the House of the Lord
- 1969: He's A Friend Of Mine
- 1969: Oh Happy Day (Buddah Records re-issue of previous 1968 LP)
- 1969: Jesus, Lover of My Soul
- 1969: Hebrew Boys
- 1969: Lord Don't Move That Mountain
- 1969: Ain't It Like Him
- 1970: Live at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam
- 1970: Candles in the Rain with Melanie Safka
- 1970: Pray For Peace
- 1971: More Happy Days
- 1971: Try the Real Thing with Melanie Safka
- 1972: Peace Is Blowin' In The Wind
- 1972: Children Get Together
- 1973: I'd Like To Teach the World To Sing
- 1974: New World
- 1975: Edwin Hawkins Presents the Matthews Sisters
- 1976: Wonderful
- 1977: The Comforter
- 1979: Edwin Hawkins Live at the Symphony
- 1982: Imagine Heaven
- 1983: Edwin Hawkins presents The Music and Arts Seminar Mass Choir
- 1984: Angels Will Be Singing with the Music and Arts Seminar Mass Choir
- 1985: Have Mercy with the Music and Arts Seminar Mass Choir
- 1987: Give Us Peace with the Music and Arts Seminar Mass Choir
- 1988: That Name with the Music and Arts Seminar Mass Choir
- 1989: 18 Great Songs
- 1990: Face to Face
- 1998: Love Is the Only Way
Altogether Hawkins has won four Grammy Awards:
- 1970: Best Soul Gospel Performance — "Oh Happy Day", performed by the Edwin Hawkins Singers;
- 1971: Best Soul Gospel Performance — "Every Man Wants to Be Free", performed by the Edwin Hawkins Singers;
- 1972: On 30 April 1972, on scene of Oude Rai in Amsterdam, Edwin Hawkins Singers sing " Oh happy day " accompanied with a group of French children " The POPPYS " in front of 5000 persons;
- 1978: Best Soul Gospel Performance, Contemporary — "Wonderful!";
- 1993: Best Gospel Choir or Chorus Album — choir director on Edwin Hawkins Music & Arts Seminar Mass Choir – Recorded Live in Los Angeles, performed by the Music & Arts Seminar Mass Choir.
In 2007, Hawkins was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame and attended the formal awards show in 2009.
- Ankeny, Jason. [Edwin Hawkins at All Music Guide Biography: Edwin Hawkins]. AMG. Retrieved on 8 May 2010.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums, 19th, London: Guinness World Records Limited.
- Günter Ehnert (ed.): Hit Bilanz. Deutsche Chart Singles 1956-1980. Hamburg: Taurus Press 1990, p. 93
- Edwin Hawkins at MySpace.com
- Biography at gospel.it