Oh Happy Day
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (March 2009)|
|"Oh Happy Day"|
|Single by Edwin Hawkins Singers|
|from the album Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord|
|Writer(s)||Edwin Hawkins, based on 18th century hymn|
"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.
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
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
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). 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. 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." George Harrison has stated the song was a primary inspiration in the writing of his 1970 international hit single "My Sweet Lord," and Hawkins' arrangement was covered by The Four Seasons in 1970 on their album Half & Half.
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, with then-17-year-old Ryan Toby singing lead. The song also appears in Big Momma's House, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, David LaChapelle's 2005 movie Rize, Robin William's 2007 movie License to Wed., 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.
In addition to the Hawkins Singers, the song has been recorded by a number of other artists:
- Jack Jones recorded the song on his 1969 album A Jack Jones Christmas.
- Dee Felice Trio included the song on their 1969 album In Heat.
- Glen Campbell recorded the song for a primarily country/MOR audience, reaching the top 40 on three different Billboard charts in 1970.
- Joan Baez included the song on her 1971 album Carry It On, and later her 1976 live album From Every Stage.
- Brooklyn Christian pop band Sonseed included a version on their 1981 album First Fruit.
- The Statler Brothers recorded a version of the song, and released it on their third album for Columbia Records called How Great Thou Art
- Aretha Franklin included a live recording on her 1987 gospel album One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism in which she sings the song in a duet with Mavis Staples.
- Club Nouveau included the song on their 1992 album A New Beginning. The single charted at No. 45 on the US R&B Chart.
- Ryan Toby at the age of 15, performed the song in the 1993 motion picture Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit.
- In 1995, The Sisters of Glory, a gospel group that featured Thelma Houston, CeCe Peniston, Phoebe Snow, Lois Walden, and Albertina Walker, included the composition on their album Good News in Hard Times released on Warner Bros.
- BeBe Winans recorded the song on his 1997 self-titled solo debut album BeBe Winans.
- It is the closing track on the live album Royal Albert Hall October 10, 1997, by Spiritualized.
- Aaron Neville recorded the song for his 2005 album Gospel Roots.
- Queen Latifah & Jubilation Choir perform the song on the 2009 album Oh Happy Day: An All-Star Music Celebration.
- Greg Buchanan recorded an instrumental harp rendition of the song on his album The Lighter Side.
- Elvis Presley recorded the song as well. It appears on Disc 2 of the collection Peace In The Valley: The Complete Gospel Recordings.
- Skeeter Davis recorded the song c. 1975 during a (re)recording session for K-Tel in Nashville.
- An 8-minute live version by Nina Simone was included in the posthumous release The Definitive Rarities Collection – 50 Classic Cuts.
- South African group Ladysmith Black Mambazo included it on their Ultimate Collection,
- Japanese voice actress Ayahi Takagaki did a cover for this song in her second single from 2010's Hikari no Filament.
- In 2013, The Wiggles recorded their version of this song on their Go Santa Go CD.
- Dorothy Combs Morrison - Lead Vocal
- Edwin Hawkins - Choir Director, Arranger, Piano
- Betty Watson - Co-Director, Soprano
- Choir Members - Walter Hawkins, Tramaine Hawkins, Elaine Kelly, Margarette Branch, Rueben Franklin, Donald Cashmere, Ruth Lyons and 40 others.
- Drums, bass and percussion - unconfirmed
- Produced by La Mont Bench.
- Recorded live 1967, Ephesian Church of God in Christ, Berkeley, California.
- Hawkins Grammy Award 1970, Washington Post.
- Acoustic Version Video on YouTube
- Nick Cave Discography.
- DeMain, Bill. "George Harrison’s 'My Sweet Lord' Copyright Case". Performing Songwriter. Retrieved 2013-01-30.
- Four Seasons Discography 1.
- The Four Seasons discography, Four Seasons Discography 2.
- Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit, IMDB Soundtrack Track Listing.
- Big Momma's House, IMDB Soundtrack Track Listing.
- Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, IMDB Soundtrack Track Listing.
- IMDB Rize Soundtrack Track Listing.
- IMDB License to Wed Soundtrack Track Listing.
- Deborah Evans Price, "Jon Bon Jovi, Queen Latifah go gospel for 'Day'", Reuters, March 27, 2009.
- Peace in Valley: Complete Gospel Recordings at Amazon.
- "Skeeter Davis", Country Music Discographies.
- Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Ultimate Collection, AllMusic. Retrieved January 7, 2014
- Original Seeds, CD liner notes by Kim Beissel