My friend Paul posted this tribute earlier today. I hadn’t heard the news of Edwin Hawkins’ death and have some very fond memories of “Oh Happy Day.” I thought about sharing my own thoughts, but I don’t know that they would add significantly to what Paul has written, so I am re-posting his words instead. The song has been running through my head since I heard the news – and probably will for the next couple of days.
If it was the musical Godspell that inspired me that contemporary music could be used to present a Christian narrative, then it was the Edwin Hawkins update of the classic hymn, “Oh Happy Day” which convinced me as a young kid that a Christian message in music could have a place on pop radio stations, especially with contemporary Christian radio being non-existent in 1968. With the chorus lyrics intact, this melody and arrangement was quite different than the version we sung at the Sunday evening services of my youth. From that point on, I felt the possibilities were endless.
Edwin Hawkins died yesterday at age 74.
The song was originally recorded as one of eight songs on an album by Hawkins’ group, The Northern California State Youth Choir. When local radio station KSAN in San Francisco started playing it, the song was picked up by Pavillion Records and distributed by…
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