25 Edwin Hawkins Music & Arts Seminar Songs You Better Have…Or Else

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Posted January 28, 2018 by J Matthew Cobb in Features
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“Oh Happy Day” remains Edwin Hawkins’s finest moment in music history, but these 25 tracks showcase the glory of his style and influence

If you didn’t know, contemporary gospel trailblazer Edwin Hawkins was more than his juggernaut 1969 pop hit “Oh Happy Day.” And of his fifty years in music, he has a lot to show. Since the unfortunate passing of the “Oh Happy Day” composer, many will be gathering around his most important and popular works to seek solace during the rough time. Proof of that can be found in this week’s data coming from Nielsen SoundScan as the treasured gospel crossover hit sprung to number one on the Billboard Gospel Digital Songs chart with a spike of 999% percent.

But don’t overlook his illustrious assembly line of the Music & Arts Seminar. Since its inception in 1982, the unit’s Mass Choir copied the rich, soulful harmonies of the Love Center Choir, led by his younger brother Walter. Through this tent of excellence, a new generation of gospel songwriters, singers and musicians inspired by the “Hawkins sound” unveiled their talents to the world via annual recordings released on a flurry of now-defunct independent labels ranging from Birthright, Leciton, Intersound and Harmony. Many of them, five of which were Grammy nominated and one being a winner, are unavailable on most major streaming music platforms and online music stores.

Making matters worse, some of the annual recordings still lay in vaults, failing to see the light of day. But over the years, a dozen Music & Arts Seminar albums thankfully have appeared on shelves. Here we highlight twenty-five of the very best songs from those albums. Let the spirit move ya…and live rejoicing every day.

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I’ll Go
(1991)
from the album Seminar ’91
Writer: Colon Haywood

A good gospel song doesn’t have to have a lot of words. Just a poignant message, lots of energy and a strong hook. Well, “I’ll Go” from Seminar 91′ packages all of that together while using that infamous Hawkins sauce. There’s a similar title on the Angels Will Be Singing album that’s also worth checking out.


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Angels Will Be Singing
(1984)
from the album Angels Will Be Singing
Writer: Edwin Hawkins

Think back to the Parliament/Funkadelic-inspired “The Chariot Is a Comin'” done at James Cleveland’s GMWA convention. Now hear it done with a gospel strut, a few lines from the public domain gem “When I Get Home” and with Lynette Hawkins-Stephens in full belting mode.


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God Is the Strength
(2015)
non-album only
Writer: Calvin Bernard Rhone

Originally premiering on Donald Lawrence & the Tri-City Singers’ Finale, the seminar dusts it off and spruce it up with Kevin Bond-esque ointment and better repetitions. It also gets a gustier lead vocal from Calvin Bernard Rhone, a James Cleveland acolyte. It’s definitely a stronger improved version.


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I Found the Answer

(1995)
from the album Live in Toledo
Writer: Doris Akers, arr. Johnny Lang

This Doris Akers hymn revs with a saucy soul, accented with a driving vamp that modulates and powerful ad-libs from Love Center Choir legend Lynette Hawkins-Stephens. Grammy-winning Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir covered this in 2000.


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Jesus Lives in Me

(1987)
from the album Give Us Peace
Writer: John P. Kee

Before the “Prince of Gospel” belted “Jesus Is Real” to the masses, the next-gen gospel giant stirred up his gifts in Edwin Hawkins’ music camp by presenting several of his own compositions in the late ’80’s.  “Jesus Lives in Me,” a song that mirrors some of Timothy Wright’s New York soul gospel, stands tall as one of Kee’s most memorable moments in the Hawkins catalog.

NEXT: #20-11


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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