Gospel Music Star Dies at 74 After Hit Song Inspires Millions

January 15, 2018Jan 15, 2018

“Oh, happy day...when Jesus...washed my sins away.”

It’s a song that became an international hit in 1969 with its new arrangement and inspired millions with its simple Gospel message. Now the man who made the 18th-century hymn’s lyrics popular again has died at the age of 74.

According to the Associated Press, Grammy-winning gospel star Edwin Hawkins created the response hymn that he and the Edwin Hawkins Singers performed in the San Francisco area.

Also noted for its instrumental creativity, the new version of “O Happy Day” enraptured audiences with its ability to capture the joy of salvation. As it rose to fame, it quickly became a gospel music standard and was recorded by hundreds of other artists, according to the Washington Post. It also “became the first gospel song to climb the mainstream charts.”

Hawkins and his singers also gained acclaim for their performance with Melanie of “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain).” Hawkins’ music career stretched into the 90s.

But on Monday, Hawkins passed away at his home in Pleasanton, California. He had been battling pancreatic cancer.

His rendition of “O Happy Day” was based on the Philip Doddridge hymn “O Happy Day, That Fixed My Choice.”

O happy day, that fixed my choice
On thee, my Savior and my God!
Well may this glowing heart rejoice,
And tell its raptures all abroad.
Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away!

He taught me how to watch and pray,
And live rejoicing every day.
Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away!

(Lyrics provided by the United Methodist Church.)

Our prayers go out to Hawkins’ loved as they deal with this loss. In other news, the leader singer of a popular Irish band was also found dead on Monday.

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