Edwin Hawkins Impact on Gospel Music in the 1970s

Edwin Hawkins was a pioneer for contemporary music and other gospel artist to follow, and his songs are still sung all around the world to this day


Edwin Hawkins was born on August 19, 1934, in Oakland California. At the age of five he started to play the piano and by the time he was seven Hawkins was the full-time piano accompanist for the family gospel group. Together with Betty Watson in 1967, they became the co-founders of Northern California State Youth Choir which was comprised of fifty members. Later on, the group would be renamed the Edwin Hawkin Singers. Hawkins was known as the trailblazer for the evolution of contemporary gospel music. 

Edwin Hawkins Singers in 1970

Edwin Hawkins Music in the 70's

Although Edwin Hawkins well know arrangement is “Oh Happy Days” from 1969, he was still writing songs all throughout the ’70s. In 1970 he came out with a new album called “More Happy Days”, which was a gospel album. From the album, the Edwin Hawkin Singers received their second grammy award for “Every Man Wants to Be Free.” While this song is mellow and played at a slower tempo than other songs on the album like “Search Me” which was played in the style of jazz and had a staccato or marching feeling to it. “Every Man Wants to Be Free” is a great example of how even though in the ’70s gospel music was starting to become more contemporary, the genre can still be played like how it was in decades before. While Hawkins came out with more albums in between the years of 1970-75, “More Happy Days” was the only gospel album. 

His Impact on Gospel Music

At first, the Edwin Hawkin Singers were looked down upon in the church community because they were singing gospel songs and getting the attention of young people in the secular world. Also, because contemporary gospel wasn’t as big as it is today. But Edwin Hawkins helped to path the path for singers like Arthea Frankin and the Winans to bring the “Good News” or gospel songs to the secular world. Hawkins was a trailblazer for contemporary gospel music and that is why in 2007 he was inducted into the Christan Music Hall of Fame. 

“Every Man Wants to be Free” From the 1970 album More Happy Days

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