Celebrating 70 years of life, multiple Grammy awards winning Dr. Edwin Hawkins was honored for his many innovations in Gospel and R&B music last week at the Oakland Inter-Stake Center at Oakland’s Mormon Temple.< p>< p>The gospel gala was hosted by Richard Smallwood and Teresa Hairston (Gospel Today), with appearances by stars including Lady Tramaine Hawkins, Bishop Yvette Flunder, Lawrence Matthews, Shirley Miller, Nikki Potts and a surprise performance by ailing legend Daryl Coley.
Over 1,000 people attended the red carpet gala event. Birthday wishes came from gospel legends
Sandra and Andre Couch and Hezekiah Walker. Numerous Bay Area artists including Lena Byrd-Miles, Nona Brown, Alfreda Lyons-Campbell, Demetrius Tolefree and Renee Winston, gave tribute in song to the “Father of Contemporary Gospel.”
Edwin Hawkins was born Aug. 18, 1943. By age five, he was playing the keyboard for the family’s gospel choir.
He grew up in the Campbell Village projects in West Oakland. Mamie Hawkins, his mother, recognized her children’s talents and encouraged them.
Her father Marsalis Matthews was an accomplished pianist playing classical and gospel music. Edwin Hawkins remembers there always being a piano in the house and gospel music always playing on the turntable.
Edwin Hawkins and his late brother Walter Hawkins were known as the originators of the urban contemporary gospel sound. Edwin Hawkins is best known for his funk style arrangement of the 18th century hymn, “Oh Happy Day,” and the popular Edwin Hawkins Music and Arts Seminar Mass Choir albums.
It was the single “Oh Happy Day” on their first album, Let Us go To the House of the Lord in 1967, which became an international success. The song crossed over to the pop charts and placed The Hawkins’ name not only in gospel music history but the history of music, period.
The song is included on “The Song of the Century List,” garnering Hawkins his first Grammy award.
Hawkins says it was while touring in Europe that his brother Walter accepted his call to ministry. Hawkins remembers how their unique ministry took root.
“Bishop Hawkins’ ministry attracted youth who was disillusioned with the condemnation and legalism of the church,” he said. “They were excited about the chance to serve God and not be judged and flocked to what started just as scripture and prayer in our home each week.”
In 1972, the gathering as they called it, grew so large that they were forced to look for a building. “This promise and vision was to be fishers of men and let God do the judging,” says Hawkins of their ministry.