- Early In The Morning Edwin Hawkins Singers 3:11
From the 1968 “Oh Happy Day” album, ‘Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord’.
Edwin Hawkins was born in Oakland, California in 1943. He grew up in the Ephesian Church of God in Christ in Berkeley, California. He sang in and arranged for the youth choir and played piano. Edwin Hawkins and Betty Watson formed the 50 member Church of God in Christ The Northern California State Youth Choir in 1967. This choir was made up of 46 of the best young singers between 17 and 25 years old in the Bay Area. The choir produced their first album ‘Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord’ in 1968, recorded in the basement of the Ephesians Church of God of Christ in Berkeley.
The album initially had 600 presses and was meant to be a fund-raising effort to finance a trip to sing at a National Youth Congress Convention in Cleveland. A song on this album was a new arrangement of an old hymn, ‘Oh, Happy Day’ featuring Dorothy Morrison on lead. In 1969 a San Francisco rock promoter, John Lingel, found the LP and passed it to a local DJ, Abe ‘Voco’ Kesh at KSAN-FM who loved the song ‘Oh, Happy Day’ and gave it plenty of air play. One of the listeners was Buddah Records promoter, Neil Bogart, who purchased the LP from Abe. Buddah released a single of ‘Oh, Happy Day’ and ‘Jesus, Lover of My Soul’ in spring 1969 on the Pavilion label. The single sold 7 million copies, reach number 4 in the US Billboard singles chart on 31 May 1969, won a 1970 Grammy award for Best Soul Gospel Performance and has become the most famous gospel song in history.
The LP ‘Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord’ was also distributed by Buddah and reached number 5 on the R&B LP charts on the 14 June 1969. The soloist on ‘Oh, Happy Day’ was Dorothy Combs Morrison but she left the group in 1969 to pursue a solo career with Elektra and Buddah Records.
The songs on this ground-breaking album were;
1. ‘Let Us Go Into the House of The Lord.’
2. ‘Jesus, Lover of My Soul.’
3. ‘To My Father’s House.’ Soloist: Elaine Kelly.
4. ‘I’m Going Through.’ Soloist: Margarette Branch.
1. ‘Oh Happy Day.’ Soloist: Dorothy Morrison.
2. ‘I Heard the Voice of Jesus.’ Trio: Trumaine Davis, Rueben Franklin and Donald Cashmere.
3. ‘Early in the Morning.’ Soloist: Betty Watson.
4. ‘Joy, Joy.’ Soloists: Tramaine Davis and Ruth Lyons.
All songs arranged by Edwin R. Hawkins.
In 1970 the Edwin Hawkins Singers supported the US folk singer Melanie Safka on her hit Woodstock single ‘Lay Down (Candle in the Wind)’(not unlike several members of JVOI who backed Melanie up at a performance in Somerville in 2013!!).
The group went on to win four Grammys between 1969 and 1983 despite having seen some of it’s singers depart and new ones join. They received the 1969 and 1970 Grammy Awards for Best Soul Gospel Performance for the songs ‘Oh Happy Day’ and ‘Every Man Wants To Be Free’ respectively.
Edwin Hawkins also instituted the Edwin Hawkins The Music & Arts Seminars from 1982. These conferences have introduced new gospel song-writers, singers and musicians to a wider audience, including through his The Music & Arts Seminar album projects. In 1992 the Edwin Hawkins Music & Arts Seminar Mass Choir won a Grammy Award for Best Gospel Album By A Choir Or Chorus for the album ‘Recorded Live In Los Angeles’.