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Gospel greats sing for U.N. 'Flower Power Day'

by Douglas Fischer
The Oakland Tribune

The voices of angels and the environment came together in - where else? - Berkeley on Thursday afternoon as some of the nation's biggest names in gospel music gathered to record a tribute for the upcoming U.N. World Environment Day.

The "day" (technically a five-day affair) is the United Nations' effort to draw attention and spur change to the environment. This year's conference is the first to focus on urban issues. It is also the first to be held in North America.

So when gospel great and Oakland native Edwin Hawkins and Marin County entrepreneur Gerald Prolman heard San Francisco would be hosting, the idea for a tribute was born.

Hawkins - writer of "Oh Happy Day" - came up with a theme and put out the word. And they came.

Richard Smallwood, Lashun Pace, The Williams Brothers, Daryl Coley, Virtue. Thursday afternoon and into the evening they and others sang, laying down tracks to "United Nations, Together We Can" at Berkeley's Fantasy Studios.

Hawkins, a four-time Grammy winner, is no stranger to theme songs. Normally, he finds composing them easy. Not this time. "For some reason, this is quite a challenge," he said. "I didn't want it to be too gospel, too jazzy, too pop ... We're trying to bridge it all."

Prolman, founder of Organic Bouquet, billed as the world's first online organic florist and the event's official florist, commissioned the song from Hawkins. He hopes to have it performed by a 1,000-voice choir the day the conference concludes, June 5 in front of San Francisco's City Hall. That day has been designated "Flower Power Day" by the United Nations.

"What better way to say 'Flower Power' than through the divine power of a Gospel song," Prolman said. "The world needs to be singing a different tune about the environment today, and here it is."

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