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Edwin Hawkins – The Man Behind ‘Oh Happy Day’ – Has Died

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*Pleasanton, CA – Edwin Hawkins, the four-time Grammy® Award-winning leader of The Edwin Hawkins Singers’ 1969 million-seller, “Oh Happy Day,” died January 15 at his home in the Bay area, after a bout with pancreatic cancer. He was 74 years old.

“It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Dr. Edwin Hawkins –– a celebrated artist, innovator, and music icon. Though he will be greatly missed the world over, the message of love, life, and encouragement that he incorporated into his music gives us all the same hope that we’ll join him in heaven and sing `Oh Happy Day.’” the Hawkins Family said.

 

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“My mother had an old hymnal and I had a knack for rearranging hymns,” Hawkins once said. “`Oh Happy Day’ was an old hymn and I rearranged it. It was actually one of the least likely songs to become a hit. There were some much stronger songs on there.” Record executive Neil Bogart picked up the song and distributed it through Buddha Records. “Oh Happy Day” reached No. 2 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart and No. 4 on the Pop Singles chart in 1969. Their rendition won them a Grammy in 1970 for Best Soul Gospel Performance. The tune has sold over 7 million copies to date and it established Hawkins’ career. I wasn’t planning to go into the music business and I wasn’t looking for a record deal,” he said in the book, Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclpedia. “The record’s success decided my fate.”

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Hawkins often toured with his younger and equally successful singing brother, Walter, and Walter’s then wife, Tramaine, as The Hawkins Family in the 1970s.  Their energetic stage show filled civic centers and concert halls across the world, including D.A.R. Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.  Edwin Hawkins, with his group and as a soloist, continued to make gospel radio hits throughout the next two decades including, “Worship The Lord,” “God Will Take Care of You,” “Give Me A Star” and “To My Father’s House.” In recent years, Hawkins recorded occasionally and toured largely in Europe. He also sponsored the Edwin Hawkins Music & Arts Seminar to teach the next generation of musicians the business of music. “This is a sad day in music,” says Liz Black, midday radio host for WLIB, a gospel radio station in New York City. “I knew and loved Edwin Hawkins’ music even before I was in the church and I know that I’m not alone in that.”

In 2001, The Recording Industry Association of America (R.I.A.A.) ranked  “Oh Happy Day” No. 63 on its Top 365 Songs of the 20th Century listing. The song has been covered by dozens of artists, including Quincy Jones, Johnny Mathis, Glen Campbell, Aretha Franklin, Jason Mraz, Susan Boyle, The Oak Ridge Boys and Elvis Presley.

Hawkins is survived by his siblings Carol, Feddie, Daniel, and Lynette.  Funeral arrangements are pending.

 

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AFRICAN AMERICAN CHURCH IN BUCKHEAD, ATLANTA TO CELEBRATE 150TH ANNIVERSARY ON APRIL 28

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One of the oldest black churches in the nation, New Hope AME Church will honor their legacy with a celebration including music, performances and special guests

A national treasure based here in Atlanta turns 150 years old this month. New Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the oldest African American churches in the country, will celebrate its 150th anniversary during a special Sunday service on April 28 at 11:00 a.m. in their sanctuary located at 3012 Arden Rd NW, Atlanta GA 30305. The all-white attire celebration will include a number of special guests, performances and a keynote sermon from Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, Presiding Prelate of the 6th Episcopal District of the AME Church. Nestled in the heart of Buckhead, New Hope is led by Pastor David F. Richards III and First Lady Linda Richards. The origins of the church date back to 1869 when recently emancipated African Americans began gathering to worship at “camp meetings” at the New Hope Camp Ground. The congregation continued meeting there until 1872, when they were given land by a white Buckhead farmer named James H. Smith, who willed three acres of his property for a church and school for “colored persons.” The church members subsequently built a tabernacle on the property which stood until 1965. The property’s original church building was built sometime prior to 1900. The congregation continued to work as farm laborers and servants for white families in the area and lived in small neighborhoods in the vicinity. In 1927, the original church building on the property burned down. The current building’s basement was built the following year, while the new sanctuary was not completed until 1936. Across the street from the church is a 1.86-acre historic New Hope Cemetery containing dozens of graves. In 2009, New Hope AME Church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places along with the cemetery located across the road. “We are so excited to commemorate 150 years of history, fellowship and community at New Hope at our upcoming anniversary event,” says Pastor Richards. “We are a small church with a big heart and we represent the little-known legacy of African Americans in Buckhead. We invite everyone to come out and celebrate with us on April 28 and experience the warm spirit that has kept this church together for almost two centuries!” For more information on New Hope AME Church, visit newhopeamechurch.org.

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AFRICAN AMERICAN CHURCH IN BUCKHEAD, ATLANTA TO CELEBRATE 150TH ANNIVERSARY ON APRIL 28

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