Grammy Award-winning singer Edwin Hawkins died on Monday at his home in Pleasanton, Calif.
His publicist Bill Carpenter told news organizations that the cause was pancreatic cancer. Hawkins was 74.
A native of Oakland, Hawkins had been performing with his family and in church groups since he was a boy. In the late 1960s, when Hawkins was in his 20s, he helped form the Northern California State Youth Choir. The group recorded its first album, Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord.
"The record rendered songs of praise with a rhythm-and-blues sensibility. A disc jockey at the Bay Area FM station KSAN, Abe Kesh, began playing one particular track, "Oh Happy Day."
"The catchy song spread, and, with the group renamed the Edwin Hawkins Singers, it was released as a single and eventually reached No. 4 on the Billboard pop chart and No. 2 on the R&B chart."
In 1970, "Oh Happy Day" won a Grammy for best soul gospel performance. The unusual pop hit was an inspiration to music historian Mitch Myers. He reflected on the song during a segment of All Things Considered on Christmas Day in 2002.