The Man Behind 'Oh Happy Day' - Has Died

Gospel Star Edwin Hawkins

Gospel Star Edwin Hawkins

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 died early Monday at his home in Pleasanton.

"He (as leader of the Edwin Hawkins Singers) was probably best known for his arrangement of "Oh Happy Day" (1968-69), which was included on the Songs of the Century list.

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Charles Jenkins, a gospel sensation in United States of America described the late Hawkins as "a true musical genius and innovator".

More than seven million copies of it were sold, Carpenter said, according to the New York Times. Hawkins arranged the song which became a global hit featuring Dorothy Combs Morrison's lead vocals.

An Oakland native and one of eight siblings, Hawkins was a composer, keyboardist, arranger and choir master. Walter Hawkins - also a Grammy Award singer-songwriter and pastor of Love Center church in Oakland - died after a long bout with cancer.

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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. 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 nearly fifty members.

Hawkins went on to make dozens of records and won four Grammys in all, including for the songs Every Man Wants to Be Free and "Wonderful!" He was selected for the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2007. He also toured on occasion with younger brother Walter Hawkins, a Grammy victor who died in 2010.

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