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Edwin Hawkins, "Oh Happy Day" gospel singer, dead at 74

Last Updated Jan 16, 2018 11:15 AM EST

Legendary gospel artist Edwin Hawkins has died at 74. Hawkins is best known for groundbreaking gospel arrangements, particularly "Oh Happy Day." Hawkins' publicist Bill Carpenter told the Associated Press that the singer died early Monday at his home in Pleasanton, California, after battling pancreatic cancer.  

Hawkins won four Grammys over the course of his career and is credited with pioneering the contemporary gospel music genre. He blended gospel hymns with a secular sound and "Oh Happy Day" was the first gospel song to reach the top 40 charts. It reached the top 10 and also became an international hit in 1969. 

He and his siblings were part of the popular music group, the Hawkins Family. He and his brother, Walter Hawkins, who died in 2010, were self-taught keyboard players in Oakland, California, who recorded their first record to raise money for their church before "Oh Happy Day" became a hit, according to the New York Times.

Edwin Hawkins

Edwin Hawkins attend the Apollo Theater Spring Gala and 80th Anniversary Celebration at the Apollo Theater on Mon., June, 10, 2014, in New York City.

AP

Hawkins' last recorded album, "Testify," was released in 2008, but he continued to perform and write and produce music for other gospel artists.

He last performed in December at the Holiday Soul concert with the San Francisco Symphony with the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, CeCe Winans and Paula West.

Last Thursday, Hawkins' family wrote on social media that he was suffering "several health challenges." They continued, "We ask that you please send your support, love, well wishes and prayers of comfort and healing to Edwin and his loved ones at this time." 

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