Our Voice

Oh Happy Day

Are you a happy person?

I wonder if you get up in the morning, a real good thing, don’t you think, joyful, ready for the day, the opportunities given, PROBLEMS TO SOLVE AND POTENTIAL TO REALIZE.

Do you approach the day which the Lord hath made happy and joyful to be alive?

Edwin Hawkins did. Do you know him and the incredible music he arranged and produced? I suggest you should. He was special and perhaps his music more so.

Edwin Hawkins was the leader, the inspiration for a tremendous singing group known as:

THE EDWIN HAWKINS SINGERS

The Associated Press called Edwin Hawkins a Gospel star. And indeed he was. But more than that, much more, Edwin Hawkins was a strong Christian, born again and in his words “in love with the Lord.” I wonder if you are. Edwin Hawkins was happy, joyful in the Lord. He died on Monday, January 15 at the age of 74 at his home in Pleasanton, California.

But this happy man IN THE LORD died happy and left us, blessed us with a musical memory never to be forgotten. This happy Christian left us one of the most spiritual renditions of the great song:

OH HAPPY DAY

Have you heard it? If so, play it again, listen to it again. If you have never heard this incredible testimony of faith done in a way you will never forget, you must listen to it. It was only one of many fantastic things this great musician and Christian did, but it was probably his best.

Edwin Hawkins was a native of Oakland, California, one of eight siblings. He was a composer, keyboardist, arranger and choirmaster. He with his family performed and ministered in church groups and in his early 20s, helped form the Northern California state youth choir. Their first album:

LET US GO INTO THE HOUSE OF THE LORD

Was released in 1968 and it was only intended for local audiences. But radio stations in the San Francisco Bay area began playing one of the album’s eight tracks. You can guess which one that was:

OH HAPPY DAY

That marvelous hymn was composed in the 18th century, some 200 years before. Hawkins, strong Christian that he was, arranged in differently in what is called “Call-and-response style.” His arrangement featured the vocals of Dorothy Combs Morrison and was eventually released nationwide as a single song by the Edwin Hawkins Singers. It quickly became a million-seller item in 1969 and proved to the world and the record companies that there was a large market for Gospel songs and for inspirational music during the turbulent era of the late 1960s.

In an interview, Edwin Hawkins said the following:

We grew up hearing all kinds of music in our home. My mother was a devout Christian, loved the Lord and displayed that in her lifestyle.”

The wonderful mother of Edwin Hawkins introduced him to the love of music and of course, even more importantly, to the love of her Lord. Hawkins was passionate about Christ, learned at the knee of his mother. Me too. I remember so well my mother singing the old hymn time and again:

I HEARD MY MOTHER SAY

GIVE ME JESUS

Many years now with her Lord, I can still hear her singing a song that greatly influenced my life.

From his father, whom Hawkins described as “not a committed Christian but a good man,” Hawkins heard and developed a love for R&B music and even country and Western. That only furthered his love for music and influenced the unforgettable arrangements he composed.

After OH HAPPY DAY by the Edwin Hawkins Singers was released at a million dollar seller in 1969, the next year 1970, the Edwin Hawkins Singers won a GRAMMY AWARD for best Soul Gospel Performance and you can certainly guess the song:

OH HAPPY DAY

Hawkins, his faith and inspiration, the Christian witness and testimony of his music crossed over to the secular side. George Harrison, member of the Beatles would cite OH HAPPY DAY as the inspiration for his hit MY SWEET LORD and even Glenn Campbell reached the Adult Contemporary Charts with his own version of the Hawkins’ performance of OH HAPPY DAY and even mammoth music stars like Elvis Presley, Johnny Mathis and many others would record that song inspired by this great musician and passionate Christian.

In 2007, Edwin Hawkins was voted into the CHRISTIAN MUSIC HALL OF FAME. A great honor to a great man but frankly, I do not know why this worthy election took so long.

I wonder my friends, are you a happy person? Is there joy in your life and your heart like there was for Edwin Hawkins? For Hawkins, a life’s motto was:

THIS IS THE DAY WHICH THE LORD HATH MADE

LET US BE GLAD AND REJOICE THEREIN

Be glad and rejoice in this very day, THIS VERY DAY AND EVERY DAY, make it for yourself as Edwin Hawkins did:

AN OH HAPPY DAY

If you have never heard the OH HAPPY DAY arrangement by Edwin Hawkins and performed by the Edwin Hawkins Singers, you must. The start of the song reminds us to be happy, this day and every day. But then, the lyrics of the song tell us why. The words also tell us the reason, the real reason behind HAPPY AND JOY and then the song tells us about the happy day, THE MOST HAPPY DAY in the life of Edwin Hawkins and every Christian, and with the hope that all mankind would find this ultimate joy and happiness. And this great hymn made greater by Edwin Hawkins emphatically states that the greatest of all days, the happiest of all days is:

WHEN JESUS WASHED MY SINS AWAY

Amen to that for me. And you? For this great hymn and for Hawkins, the washing, the cleansing, the forgiveness, the love, grace and compassion of Jesus when it happened was the greatest day, the happiest day in his life.

And, OH HAPPY DAY and Hawkins tell us about the results of the JESUS WASHING. We learned from the dynamics of that happy day:

HOW TO PRAY

Not before that. All men and women, including those deeply secular even atheistic pray whether they call it that or not. But the life of real prayer, REAL PRAYER really begins from that first washing-cleansing day, that happy day when, again as the hymn says:

JESUS WASHED MY SINS AWAY

And then comes the joy promised to every individual who is so washed. We can then for the very first time:

LIVE REJOICING EVERY DAY

And that is the real message, the real meaning of that great song, that marvelous hymn OH HAPPY DAY.

I had that happy day in my life. Have you? No matter my inadequacies and weaknesses, I have been able to experience the happiness and joy of the JESUS WASHING every day of my life. No matter the problems, the trials and tribulations, I in my own way life REJOICING EVERY DAY. I hope and pray the same for you.

Edwin Hawkins of the Edwin Hawkins Singers personally knew that happiness and joy in his life. He lived rejoicing until the day he died from the ravaging effects of cancer. No matter the pain and suffering from that horrible death, I can only imagine that Hawkins died as he lived:

HAPPY IN THE LORD

REJOICING EVERY DAY INCLUDING THE DAY HE DIED

But then, his happiness was ultimately fulfilled. His eternal rejoicing knew no limits. Edwin Hawkins died Monday, January 15, 2018 at the age of 74. But then his real life began, and that reminds me of the lyrics of another song made popular by the Carpenters:

WE’VE ONLY JUST BEGUN TO LIVE!

Like Edwin Hawkins did January 15, 2018. And yet another verse comes to mind:

HE BEING DEAD YET SPEAKETH

Or singeth. Like your memory, Edwin Hawkins, your music lives on, testifying for the Jesus you loved and inspiring all of us who know the Lord you knew to cherish that joy and happiness. Thank you, Mr. Hawkins, thank you. Every day will be made more happy, more joyful, more thrilling because of:

THE JESUS YOU LOVED

AND YOU!