This past Monday, Jan. 15, multiple-Grammy Award-winning gospel singer Edwin Hawkins died at his Pleasanton, Calif., home. He was 74 years old.
Born in 1943, Hawkins first gained popularity in 1968 after he and Betty Watson had founded the Northern California State Youth Choir. The ensemble recorded eight songs at a local church for their first album Let Us Go into the House of the Lord, hoping to sell 500 copies in an effort to raise money for a trip.
However, when radio stations around the San Francisco Bay area began playing one of the songs, "Oh Happy Day," the song took off and the rest is history. "Oh Happy Day" was re-issued as a single the following year and became a hit worldwide, crossing over to the pop chart top 5 in the U.S. (No. 4), U.K. (No. 2), Canada (No. 2), Ireland (No. 2), and France (No. 1), selling over one million copies within the first two months.
The Recording Academy, which awarded Hawkins a total of four Grammy wins and 19 nominations, on Tuesday shared this statement following Hawkins' passing:
"Four-time Grammy winner Edwin Hawkins was a celebrated recording artist recognized as a founder of modern gospel music."
"He earned 19 Grammy nominations between 1969-1996, winning his first award for Best Soul Gospel Performance for 'Oh Happy Day,' the crossover hit that solidified his status as a leading force in gospel music. He earned three more Grammy Awards during his career in the Best Soul Gospel Performance and Best Gospel Album By A Choir Or Chorus categories."
"Edwin's contributions to the contemporary Christian genre and commitment to music celebrating religious faith will continue to inspire both artists and audiences for years to come. Our thoughts go out to Edwin's family and collaborators during this difficult time."
The Gospel Music Association (GMA), which awarded Hawkins a Dove Award in 1982 for Inspirational Black Gospel Album and inducted him into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2000, shared a video of Hawkins performing at the 2009 GMA Dove Awards, celebrating the memory of the late singer.
You can watch the video below or by clicking here.