Grammy award-winner Edwin Hawkins grew up in a musical family. He began singing in youth choirs at a very early age, eventually discovering the piano at age five. At age seven he began playing for the Hawkins family group, who released their first recording in 1957. He went on to sing at several churches and on a weekly Sunday night radio broadcast before he was sixteen years old. With his brother Bishop Walter Hawkins, Edwin Hawkins is the co-founder of the Edwin Hawkins & Walter Hawkins Music and Arts Love Fellowship Conference.
In 1967, with the help of Betty Watson, Mr. Hawkins started the Northern California State Youth Choir. A year later he recorded the album Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord. The album featured the song “Oh Happy Day,” which became one of the biggest Gospel hits of all time selling seven million copies and earning him a Grammy award in 1970. He has since recorded dozens of albums and has been nominated for ten Grammy awards over a career that has spanned four decades. In 1972, he won his second Grammy award for Every Man Wants to Be Free, the third for Wonderful in 1980, and his fourth for If You Love Me in 1983. Other records include Kings and Kingdoms and Joyful Christmas, for Sony Music, and All Things are Possible. His album Love is the Only Way includes a new version of his classic hit “Oh Happy Day” and features guest appearances by Dita Jackson, Brenda Roy, Lawrence Matthew, Bishop Walter Hawkins, and Lynette Hawkins-Stephens. "Oh Happy Day" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry in 2005. In 2016, Mr. Hawkins was selected by US Congress as an honored guest at the 8th annual Evolution of Gospel Conference at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC.
In 1996 he teamed up with all-Swedish Gospel choir Svart På Vitt, on a ten-city US tour. Later that year, he was a guest on the PBS television special An Evening with the Boston Pops, which also featured Patti LaBelle and Desiree Coleman Jackson.
Mr. Hawkins, who is often regarded as “the Father of Contemporary Gospel,” makes his San Francisco Symphony debut at these performances.