Rest in peace, Edwin Hawkins: The Edwin Hawkins Singers, “Oh Happy Day” (1969)

EdwinHawkins

(Above: The Singers, performing live)

The music world lost Edwin Hawkins today at the age of 74 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

The Edwin Hawkins Singers shared Gospel music in the late 1960s, a time when many others were singing about a desire for peace without relying on Scripture. The Singers released an LP in 1968 called Let Us Go Into the House Of The Lord. It attracted the attention of radio stations in their native San Francisco, especially the song “Oh Happy Day.” The popularity of the song on radio convinced Pavilion Records to release it as a single. The song sold a million copies in about eight weeks, and shot up to #4 on the national pop chart in 1969. International success followed: the song went to #1 in Germany and just missed the top in the UK and Ireland, stalling at #2. In all seven million copies of the single sold worldwide. Hawkins won a Grammy award for Best Soul Gospel Performance for the song, and the cover versions followed. Glen Campbell you’d expect, but The Four Seasons? You can look it up.

The Singers hit the pop charts again in 1970, providing the backup vocals on Melanie’s “Lay Down (Candles In the Rain),” a song that made it to #6 and, to be honest, hasn’t held up well over time. Following the Melanie release, the group went back to creating strong Gospel records – 32 LPs and two Greatest Hits compilations in all. Hawkins won three more Grammy awards for his spiritual music and was eventually named to the Christian Music Hall of Fame.

Perhaps more importantly, the music of Hawkins made its way to millions of children performing in their local church choirs. You’ve probably either sang, or heard sung, a version of “Oh Happy Day” performed by a bunch of kids. That’s the power of music: it transcends generations across time.  In that sense, “Oh Happy Day” is profound.

You can hear “Oh Happy Day” by clicking here.

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