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.
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.”