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|
|B-side||"Jesus, Lover of My Soul"|
|Released||1968 (April 1969, U.S.)|
|Recorded||1967, Ephesian Church of God in Christ, Berkeley, California|
|Writer(s)||Edwin Hawkins, based on 18th-century hymn|
|Edwin Hawkins Singers singles chronology|
"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 on the US Singles Chart, No. 1 in France, Germany and the Netherlands and No. 2 on both the UK singles chart and Irish Singles Chart. It has since become a gospel music standard.
The recording is notable for the muted piano, drum and bass backing and the dominant use of the left-hand stereo channel which features the performance of lead singer, Dorothy Combs Morrison. The recording was made at Hawkin's church, the Ephesian Church of God in Christ in Berkeley, California.
Edwin Hawkins’ gospel 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, with all of the original verses being omitted.
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. George Harrison has stated the song was a primary inspiration in the writing of his 1970 international hit single "My Sweet Lord."
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.
- Club Nouveau included the song on their 1992 album A New Beginning. The single charted at No. 45 on the US R&B Chart.
- Dorothy Combs Morrison – lead vocal
- Edwin Hawkins – choir director, arranger, piano
- Betty Watson – co-director, soprano vocals
- 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.
- P. Doddridge and E. F. Rimbault, "Happy Day", in Joseph Flintoft Berry and Charles H. Gabriel (1914), edd., Hymns of the Heart, New York: Methodist Book Concern, Hymn 134.
- Hawkins Grammy Award 1970, Washington Post.
- on YouTube
- DeMain, Bill. "George Harrison’s 'My Sweet Lord' Copyright Case". Performing Songwriter. Retrieved 2013-01-30.
- 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.
- [Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–2002]
- Original Seeds, CD liner notes by Kim Beissel