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Gospel star Edwin Hawkins, known for ‘Oh Happy Day,’ dies

FILE – In this June 10, 2014 file photo, Edwin Hawkins appears at the Apollo Theater Spring Gala and 80th Anniversary Celebration in New York. (Photo by Brad Barket/Invision/AP, File) (Associated Press)

USA – Legendary American gospel star Edwin Hawkins, famous for groundbreaking global hit “Oh Happy Day,” has died.

Hawkins died early Monday (15 January) at his home in Pleasanton, California. He was 74 and had been suffering from pancreatic cancer, publicist Bill Carpenter told The Associated Press.

Charles Jenkins, a gospel sensation in USA described the late Hawkins as “a true musical genius and innovator.”

Known as a singer, Hawkins was also an accomplished pianist, choir master, composer and arranger.

The UK number two hit ‘Oh Happy Day’ sold over seven million copies worldwide in 1969. Hawkins arranged the song which became a global hit featuring Dorothy Combs Morrison’s lead vocals.

The Californian, credited with pioneering urban gospel music, released dozens of albums between 1968 and 1998 earning several awards. He co-founded the Northern California State Youth Choir of the Church of God in Christ with Betty Watson.

Hawkins made several records and won four Grammys in all, including for the songs “Every Man Wants to Be Free” and “Wonderful!” In 2007, he was voted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame. He also toured on occasion with younger brother Walter Hawkins, a Grammy winner who died in 2010.

His last album, Testify, was released in 2008 and he wrote and produced music for other 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.”

Additional Reporting by Agencies.

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