'Oh Happy Day' Singer Hawkins Dies At 74

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Hawkins was regarded as a pioneer of urban gospel music, blending gospel hymns with secular sound.

The American gospel music star Edwin Hawkins has died at his home in California, at the age of 74.

His publicist revealed that the Grammy award victor had been suffereing from pancreatic cancer.

He is best-known for the 1969 hit Oh Happy Day.

Charles Jenkins, a gospel sensation in U.S. described the late Hawkins as "a true musical genius and innovator".

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The song reached number two in the United Kingdom charts and sold over seven million copies worldwide in 1969.

A native of Oakland, Hawkins had been performing with his family and in church groups since he was a boy.

The Californian released dozens of albums between 1968 and 1998 earning several awards. Together with Betty Watson, he was the co-founder of the Northern California State Youth Choir of the Church of God in Christ, which included nearly fifty members. It then became an global success, selling more than 7 million copies worldwide, and Hawkins was awarded his first Grammy for it. Hawkins' arrangement of the song was eventually covered by The Four Seasons on their 1970 album Half & Half. He was selected for the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2007.

Hawkins' younger brother Walter died in 2010 at the age of 61.

He played his last shows in December to a crowd at the Holiday Soul concert in San Francisco. 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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