by Michael P Coleman

The entertainment world lost a gospel music pioneer Monday, when Edwin Hawkins succumbed to pancreatic cancer at 74.

Hawkins was a legend if ever there was one. When his “Oh Happy Day” hit airwaves fifty years ago, music fans had quite simply never heard anything like it. I argue that we’ve not heard anything like it since.

“Oh Happy Day”’s fusion of so many different musical styles, from traditional gospel to jazz to R & B to blues, served as a blueprint for artists to follow, and many have. Members of both the Crouch and Winans families, two other gospel music dynasties, have expressed a debt to Hawkins for showing them the way.

“Oh Happy Day” and many other Hawkins classics provided me with a melodic balm on many, many days in the house I grew up in. A couple of years ago, I almost lost consciousness at Davies Hall in San Francisco when BeBe Winans thanked Hawkins from the stage, and I realized Hawkins was sitting just a couple of rows in front of me. I walked over after the concert and introduced myself, and I’m not at all embarrassed to tell you that I teared up when Hawkins agreed to an interview.

Click here to read the full feature, including Hawkins’ comments about his final project.  

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