Thinking Out Loud

January 16, 2018

Remembering Edwin Hawkins

Filed under: Christianity, music — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:30 am

If it was the musical Godspell that inspired me that contemporary music could be used to present a Christian narrative, then it was the Edwin Hawkins update of the classic hymn, “Oh Happy Day” which convinced me as a young kid that a Christian message in music could have a place on pop radio stations, especially with contemporary Christian radio being non-existent in 1968. With the chorus lyrics intact, this melody and arrangement was quite different than the version we sung at the Sunday evening services of my youth. From that point on, I felt the possibilities were endless.

Edwin Hawkins died yesterday at age 74.

The song was originally recorded as one of eight songs on an album by Hawkins’ group, The Northern California State Youth Choir. When local radio station KSAN in San Francisco started playing it, the song was picked up by Pavillion Records and distributed by pop music label Buddah — insert reference to the irony here — with the artist designation as “Edwin Hawkins Singers.” The lead vocal is by gospel singer Dorothy Combs Morrison. It’s a song of testimony and both the traditional and modern versions have been used in baptismal services, and for many it served as an introduction to the mass choir genre of gospel music.

An obituary at National Public Radio (NPR) notes, “Throughout his career, Edwin Hawkins won a total of four Grammys, and he was voted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame in 2007.”

He taught me how
To watch and pray
And live rejoicing
Every day…
…Oh happy day…

 

1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on random thoughts from lorne and commented:
    My friend Paul posted this tribute earlier today. I hadn’t heard the news of Edwin Hawkins’ death and have some very fond memories of “Oh Happy Day.” I thought about sharing my own thoughts, but I don’t know that they would add significantly to what Paul has written, so I am re-posting his words instead. The song has been running through my head since I heard the news – and probably will for the next couple of days.

    Comment by Lorne Anderson — January 16, 2018 @ 11:01 am


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