Oh Happy Day

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"Oh Happy Day"
Single by Edwin Hawkins Singers
from the album Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord
Released 1968
Format LP
Recorded 1967
Genre Gospel
Length 4:59
Label Pavilion/Buddah
Writer(s) Edwin Hawkins, based on 18th century hymn
Producer(s) Edwin Hawkins

"Oh Happy Day" is a 1967 gospel music arrangement of an 18th-century hymn. Recorded by the Edwin Hawkins Singers, it became an international hit in 1969, reaching No. 4 in the US and No. 2 in the UK pop charts. It has since become a gospel music standard.

Origins[edit]

Edwin Hawkins’ funk style arrangement of the hymn "Oh, Happy Day" has a long pedigree: It began as a hymn written in the mid-18th century ("O happy day, that fixed my choice") by English clergyman Philip Doddridge (based on Acts 8:35) set to an earlier melody (1704) by J. A. Freylinghausen. By the mid-19th century it had been given a new melody by Edward F. Rimbault, who also added a chorus, and was commonly used for baptismal or confirmation ceremonies in the UK and USA. The 20th century saw its adaptation from 3/4 to 4/4 time and this new arrangement by Hawkins, which contains only the repeated Rimbault refrain (all of the original verses being omitted).

The Edwin Hawkins Singers[edit]

The Edwin Hawkins Singers began as The Northern California State Youth Choir of the Church of God in Christ, Inc. and was founded in 1967 by Hawkins and Betty Watson. Members were aged 17–25. As was common in gospel circles they produced and distributed their own LP: Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord, recorded live in church. "Oh, Happy Day", featuring Dorothy Morrison as lead vocalist, was picked up by a local DJ, KSAN's Bob Mcclay, and subsequently released commercially. Aretha Franklin had already brought strong gospel stylings to the pop charts with songs such as "Think" (1968), but a hymn had never “crossed over” before. "Oh Happy Day" soared into the US Top 5 (No. 22 Adult Contemporary as well), winning a Grammy and massive sales worldwide, including a US Gold Record.

Legacy and influence[edit]

Hawkins' arrangement quickly became a “standard” and has been recorded by hundreds of artists. It was included on the RIAA Songs of the Century list and won Hawkins a Grammy Award for Best Soul Gospel Performance in 1970 (performed by the Edwin Hawkins Singers).[1] He is still active and is now an elder statesman for the Contemporary Gospel style which "Oh Happy Day" helped found.

In live performances and acoustic versions of the Nick Cave song "Deanna" (1988), portions of "Oh Happy Day" are included, revealing the inspiration for Cave's song.[2] The original version is on the album "Tender Prey," and the acoustic version is on "B-Sides & Rarities" and the bonus album/single "Acoustic Versions From Tender Prey," which was rereleased in Australia in 1994 under the title "Stripped."[3] George Harrison has stated the song was a primary inspiration in the writing of his 1970 international hit single "My Sweet Lord,"[4] and Hawkins' arrangement was covered by The Four Seasons in 1970 on their album Half & Half.[5][6]

The song has appeared in many movies, beginning with the German film Seventeen and Anxious in 1970, but most notably Whoopi Goldberg's Sister Act 2,[7] with then-17-year-old Ryan Toby singing lead. The song also appears in Big Momma's House,[8] Nutty Professor II: The Klumps,[9] David LaChapelle's 2005 movie Rize,[10] Robin William's 2007 movie License to Wed.,[11] and in 2010 biographical film produced by Walt Disney Pictures: Secretariat.

In the United Kingdom, it was played by Bruno Brookes on BBC Radio 1 in the early hours of April 10, 1992, to herald the Conservative Party's fourth consecutive election victory. It has also more recently appeared being sung by a London choir in an episode of the BBC TV drama Ashes to Ashes (Episode 3 - first aired in the UK on February 21, 2008). This song appeared in episode 8 of the 2006 Japanese TV drama My Boss My Hero.

Other versions[edit]

In addition to the Hawkins Singers, the song has been recorded by a number of other artists:

Personnel[edit]

Independently released on the LP Let us go into the house of the Lord (1968). Commercially released as a 7" single on Pavilion Records April 1969, then on Buddah Records LP Oh Happy Day 1969.

Awards[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]