Edwin Hawkins
Birth name Edwin Reuben Hawkins
Born August 18, 1943 (age 73)
Oakland, California
Genres Gospel
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter, producer
Instruments Vocals, keyboards
Years active 1960s-1990s
Labels Pavilion, Buddah, Myrrh
Associated acts Walter Hawkins, Tramaine Hawkins, Andrae Crouch

At the age of seven Hawkins was already the keyboardist to accompany the family’s gospel choir. 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 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 privately (on the Century 70 custom label), hoping to sell 500 copies. “Oh Happy Day” was just one of the eight songs on the album. (The soloists in the album were Elaine Kelly, Margarette Branch, Dorothy Combs Morrison, Tramaine Davis, Reuben Franklin, Donald Cashmere, Betty Watson, and Ruth Lyons.)

When radio stations of the San Francisco Bay area started playing “Oh Happy Day”, it became very popular. Featuring the lead vocal of Dorothy Combs Morrison, the subsequently released single (on the newly created Pavilion label distributed by Buddah) rocketed to sales of over a million copies within two months. It crossed over to the pop charts making U.S. No. 4, UK No. 2, No. 2 on the Irish Singles Chart, and No. 1 on 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. Hawkins’ arrangement of the song was eventually covered by The Four Seasons on their 1970 album Half & Half.

Their second 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 #6 in the U.S. In the 1992 movie Leap of Faith, Hawkins was the choir master for the gospel songs.


Edwin Hawkins Singers in 1970
This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.

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
1971: More Happy Days
1971: Try the Real Thing with Melanie Safka
1972: Peace Is Blowin’ In The Wind
1972: Children Get Together
1973: I’d Like To Teach the World To Sing
1974: New World
1975: Edwin Hawkins Presents the Matthews Sisters
1976: Wonderful
1977: The Comforter
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: That Name with the Music and Arts Seminar Mass Choir
1990: Face to Face
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;
1978: 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 and attended the formal awards show in 2009.

Leave a Reply