Legendary Musician Edwin Hawkins Has Passed Away

Legendary Musician Edwin Hawkins Has Passed Away

"It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Dr. Edwin Hawkins - a celebrated artist, innovator, and music icon", the Hawkins family said in a statement on the singers Facebook page.

Grammy Award victor Edwin Hawkins, who was most famous for his arrangement of "Oh Happy Day", has died at the age of 74. He had been suffering from pancreatic cancer, publicist Bill Carpenter told The Associated Press.

The website AllMusic called Hawkins a "trailblazing force behind the evolution of the contemporary gospel sound".

The Edwin Hawkins Singers reached the top 10 on the pop charts with "Oh Happy Day", a call and response hymn that began as a local favorite in the Bay Area and became an worldwide hit in 1969.

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Born in Oakland, California, in 1943, Hawkins would go on to found the Northern California State Youth Choir. The song, a gospel style rework of an 18th century hymn, starts with a jazzy drum beat and a kind of blues pop piano groove.

The contemporary arrangement was one of the first gospel songs to top the pop charts, and it was this song that ignited Hawkins' career. "My mother, who was a devout Christian, loved the Lord and displayed that in her lifestyle".

At the age of seven Hawkins was accompanying his family's gospel choir as a keyboardist. Oh Happy Day inspired George Harrison to write My Sweet Lord, was covered by Elvis Presley, Glen Campbell and Aretha Franklin, and influenced mainstream soul music.

Hawkins recorded many albums and took home a total of four Grammys, including songs "Wonderful!" and "Every Man Wants To Be Free".

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