Edwin Hawkins – Grammy-winning Oh Happy Day gospel singer dead aged 74

Grammy-winning gospel singer, Edwin Hawkins, as died aged 74.

The American singer passed away at his home in California early this morning, his publicist said.

He had been suffering from pancreatic cancer, his publicist said.

Hawkins, a pioneer of urban gospel music, was best-known for the 1969 hit Oh Happy Day.

The song has appeared in numerous films and TV shows and is celebrated for being a gospel-mainstream crossover hit.

It has been covered by Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin and Susan Boyle, to name a few.

It famously featured in the Whoopie Goldberg comedy Sister Act 2.

The following year the Edwin Hawkins Singers backed Melanie on her top 10 hit Lay Down (Candles in the Rain).

He was criticised for turning gospel music into pop by traditionalists.

He answered his critics by saying: “If the lyrics talk about the Lord – it’s still gospel”.

Born in Oakland on August 19, 1943, Edwin was spotted as a musical talent while singing in his church choir.

Last night stars paid tribute to his talent and memory.

Soul singer Hezekiah Walker ‏wrote on Twitter: “I love you sir. I still believe in miracles.”

The Goonies star Martha Plimpton wrote: “All gratitude to this man.”