The Edwin Hawkins Singers performing at the 1970 Edison Awards
|Birth name||Edwin Reuben Hawkins|
|Born||August 19, 1943|
Oakland, California, U.S.
|Died||January 15, 2018 (aged 74)|
Pleasanton, California, U.S.
|Occupation(s)||Singer, songwriter, producer|
|Labels||Pavilion, Buddah, Myrrh|
|Associated acts||Walter Hawkins, Tramaine Hawkins, Andraé Crouch|
Edwin Reuben Hawkins (August 19, 1943 – January 15, 2018) was an American gospel musician, pianist, choir master, composer, and arranger. He was one of the originators of the urban contemporary gospel sound. 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. 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)".
Hawkins was born in Oakland, California, on August 19, 1943. At the age of seven, he was already the keyboardist to accompany the family's gospel group.
Together with Betty Watson in May 1967, he was 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 (on the Century 70 custom label owned by LaMont Branch). The choir used this LP as a fundraiser to go to the 1968 Youth Congress for the COGIC in Washington, D.C. to compete in the annual choir competition and represent the Northern California area. The choir did come in second place at the competition, but that was one of many surprises coming their way. Upon their return from that trip, the LP found its way into the hands of a KSAN Underground Rock DJ in San Francisco who happened to pick "Oh Happy Day" to play on his station; it became an instant hit. The soloists on the album were Elaine Kelly, Margarette Branch, Dorothy Combs Morrison (the original lead singer on "Oh Happy Day"), Tramaine Davis (Hawkins), Reuben Franklin, Donald Cashmere, Betty Watson, and Ruth Lyons.
Once "Oh Happy Day" started being played in other parts of the country and the group was made aware of its rising success on the radio, they began to get in contact with the right people in the industry who helped them get a major record deal. The group signed on with the newly created Pavilion label (distributed by Buddah), and released a second LP, called He's A Friend Of Mine, in 1969, but it was "Oh Happy Day" that rocketed to sales of more than a million copies within two months. It crossed over to the pop charts, making U.S. No. 4, UK No. 2, Canada No. 2, No. 2 on the Irish Singles Chart, and No. 1 on the French Singles Charts and 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. His arrangement of the song was eventually covered by The Four Seasons on their 1970 album Half & Half.
The choir's second LP Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 charts was the 1970 Melanie single "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)," on which the label listed the performers as "Melanie with The Edwin Hawkins Singers". The song peaked at No. 6 in the U.S. and Top 10 in several other countries.
- 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
- 1970: More Happy Days
- 1971: Try the Real Thing
- 1969: Peace Is Blowin' In The Wind
- 1971: Children Get Together
- 1972: I'd Like To Teach the World To Sing
- 1973: New World
- 1976: Wonderful
- 1977: The Comforter
- 1977: Edwin Hawkins Presents the Matthews Sisters
- 1979: Edwin Hawkins Live at the Symphony
- 1981: Edwin Hawkins Live with the Oakland Symphony Orchestra
- 1982: Imagine Heaven
- 1982: Edwin Hawkins Live with the Oakland Symphony Orchestra & The Love Center Choir Volume II
- 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: People in Need with Tramaine Hawkins and the Edwin Hawkins Singers to benefit Homeless USA
- 1988: That Name with the Music and Arts Seminar Mass Choir
- 1990: Face to Face
- 1994: Kings and Kingdoms with the Music and Arts Seminar Mass Choir
- 1995: Anything is Possible
- 1998: Love Is the Only Way
- 1989: 18 Great Songs
- 1998: The Very Best Of
Awards and honors
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
- 1977: 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; he attended the formal awards show in 2009.
- California Birth Index. "Edwin Reuben Hawkins, Born 08/18/1943 in California". California Birth Index. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
- Ankeny, Jason. "Biography: Edwin Hawkins". AMG. Retrieved May 8, 2010.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 246. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Günter Ehnert (ed.): Hit Bilanz. Deutsche Chart Singles 1956–1980. Hamburg: Taurus Press 1990, p. 93.
- Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–1995. Record Research. p. 185. ISBN 0-89820-115-2.
- "Gospel star Edwin Hawkins dead at 74". The Washington Post. January 16, 2018. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- "Welcome to the Christian Music Hall of Fame". December 25, 2009. Archived from the original on December 25, 2009.
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