Edwin Hawkins

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The Edwin Hawkins Singers in Amsterdam , 1970

Edwin Reuben Hawkins (born August 18, 1943 in Oakland , California - † January 15, 2018 in Pleasanton , California) was an American gospel musician . His name is primarily associated with the world hit Oh Happy Day , sung in 1969 by the Edwin Hawkins Singers gospel choir who bears his name .


Hawkins came from a family with a strong musical background. At the age of seven he accompanied his family's gospel choir during their performances on the piano throughout the program. In May 1967 he founded the 46-person gospel choir Northern California State Choir (between the ages of 17 and 25) . He needed money for a trip to the “Annual Youth Congress of the Churches of God in Christ ” in June 1968 in Washington, DC The choir asked Century Record Productions to record their choir songs. With the savings of 1,800 dollars, they financed the recording of the gospel LP Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord in the Ephesian Church of Christ in Berkeley with a circulation of 500. With an outdated Ampex two-track tape (eight-track recorders were modern), 8 hymns were recorded with piano, bass and drums only, lead singer Dorothy Combs Morrison sang with an empathetic guttural alto voice. Among them was the title Oh Happy Day , which has long since become public domain .

Edwin Hawkins Singers (1970)

The small record company Pavilion Records in Oakland was owned by LaMont Bench. He received permission to press 1,000 more copies for commercial sale. Only 600 copies of it were sold. One came into the hands of radio DJ Abe "Voco" Kesh at KSAN FM in San Francisco in February 1969 . The station was known as an underground station, but Kesh decided to give Oh Happy Day an intense airplay . The station KOIT in San Francisco added the song to its playlist . Neil Bogert of Buddah Records heard the record on the radio and signed a distribution deal with Pavilion Records . The gospel choir was marketed by Buddah Records and renamed Edwin Hawkins Singers . Oh Happy Day was previously released as a single from the LP and released in April 1969 as Oh Happy Day / Jesus, Lover of My Soul (Pavilion 20001). The single received a Top20 recommendation in the April 19, 1969 Billboard issue . As a massive crossover hit, it reached both the US rhythm and blues (2nd place) and the US pop hit parade (4th place) and sold a million copies within just two weeks of its release. After the release in Great Britain on May 18, 1969, it reached number 2 on the charts there. On June 3rd she was awarded the gold record by the RIAA, making her the first certified single in the gospel sector. A total of 7 million records were sold worldwide and 4 Grammy Awards were given in the USA . In Germany and Switzerland it even reached number 1 in the national charts.

About a year after Oh Happy Day , the choir accompanied Melanie during the recording of her first successful track Lay Down (Candles in the Rain) .

Hawkins received the award for a production with the world-famous Oakland Symphony Orchestra and for the LP Every Man Wants to be Free . Oh Happy Day made the list of Songs of the Century .

In 1979 the Christian musician Siegfried Fietz won the Edwin Hawkins Singers for a recording of psalm adaptations in a modern, rocking garb. The LP was entitled "After the Dark Comes a New Tomorrow", and in 2000 the production was also released as a CD by Abakus Musik.

In 1982 Hawkins founded the Edwin Hawkins Music and Arts Seminar . The seminar runs for one week every year and serves to promote the exchange of ideas among gospel musicians and to discover new talents.

Edwin Hawkins died on January 15, 2018 at his home in Pleasanton, California on a cancer .



year Title
Top ranking, total weeks, awardChart placementsChart placements
(Year, title, album , rankings, weeks, awards, notes)
1969 Oh happy day DE1 (18 weeks)
AT2 (16 weeks)
CH1 (15 weeks)
UK2 (13 weeks)

(10 weeks)US
Edwin Hawkins Singers
1970 Lay Down (Candles In The Rain) - - - - US6 (17 weeks)
Melanie & Edwin Hawkins Singers

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ 'Oh Happy Day' changed Edwin Hawkins' life , San Francisco Chronicle, October 23, 2009.
  2. Emmelt George Price, Encyclopedia of African American Music , Volume 3, 2011, p 381st
  3. ^ Joseph Murrells, Million Selling Records , 1985, pp. 284 f.
  4. 1969 - Gospel Makes Great Industry Strides , Billboard Magazine, Aug. 16, 1969, p. 34.
  5. ^ Joseph Murrells, Million Selling Records , 1985, p. 254.
  6. Robert Dimery, 1001 Songs: You Must Hear Before You Die , 2011, no page number
  7. Gospel star Edwin Hawkins, known for 'Oh Happy Day,' this in: The Washington Post from January 15, 2018
  8. Chart sources: DE AT CH UK US
  9. Music Sales Awards: US