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Oh Happy Day by The Edwin Hawkins Singers

Album: Oh Happy DayReleased: 1969Charted:
  • This is the only traditional gospel song ever to crossover and become a hit on the pop charts. "Oh Happy Day" is a Protestant hymn that dates from 1755. It is included in the standard Baptist hymnal.
  • Edwin Hawkins was a pianist at Ephesian Church of God in Christ in Berkeley, California when he came up with the popular Latin/soul version of this song in 1968. In an October 23, 2009 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, he explained that "Oh Happy Day" was one of eight arrangements he put together for the Northern California State Youth Choir, which was made up of 46 singers ages 17 to 25, and the plan was to sell an album of the songs to finance a trip to a church youth conference in Washington, D.C.

    The tracks were quickly recorded live in church on a two-track tape machine (industry standard at the time was eight-track), but the records weren't pressed in time for the trip. They did attend the conference, and the choir placed second in a singing competition, where they performed two of Hawkins' arrangements, but not "Oh Happy Day," which Hawkins said was "Not our favorite song."

    500 copies of the album were made, and one of them found its way to the popular DJ Abe "Voco" Kesh at KSAN-FM in San Francisco. Other stations followed, and Buddah Records signed Hawkins to a record deal, rechristening the Northern California State Youth Choir "The Edwin Hawkins Singers" for their reissue of the album, which became a huge hit.
  • The female lead is Dorothy Morrison, who signed her own deal with Buddah Records when this became a hit.
  • This song was recorded for the gospel market, and its secular success didn't go over well with everyone at the church: local officials of the denomination circulated a petition asking secular radio stations to stop airing the song.

    Hawkins had a different take. He told The Chronicle: "I think they thought they were doing the right thing. What confused me about it was they were teaching us all our lives that we were to take the message everywhere."
  • Dan Sorkin, who was a popular DJ on radio station KSFO in San Francisco, was a big supporter of this song and gave it a huge push on his morning show. He even interviewed Dorothy Morrison and Edwin Hawkins.
  • This won a Grammy Award for Best Soul Gospel Performance.
  • This is the song that the late Beatle George Harrison claimed he got the idea for "My Sweet Lord," not The Chiffons' "He's So Fine" which he was blamed for. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jeff - Boston, MA
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Comments: 14

On April 20th 1969, "Oh! Happy Day" by the Edwin Hawkins Singers featuring Dorothy Morrison entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #72; and on May 25th it peaked at #4 (for 2 weeks) and spent 10 weeks on the Top 100...
It was the group's only charted record, but Dorothy Morrison had two solo records make the Top 100; "All God's Children Got Soul" (#95 in 1969) and "Spirit In The Sky" (#99 in 1970)...
Edwin Hawkins will celebrate his 71st birthday this coming August 18th and Ms. Morrison turns 70 years old next month on May 8th.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
Forgot to mention... No horse was as fast in speed as Secretriat was back then when he won the Triple Crown in 1973.Maggie - Hobart, In
What an uplifting song. This song was featured in the movie "Secretariat" about a horse that won the Triple Crown Winner in 1973 despite everyone's belief. WOW... but he did it and no horse has done it since then. They played this song at the end of the movie while they ran the credits, and by that time, you already felt GREAT and Overwhelmed!!! Which is what this song "Oh Happy Day" makes you feel like!! Like the movie, no Gospel song has become so popular and a such a big hit since!!!! I remember this song when I was little. I love this song.. put on RINGTONE!!Maggie - Hobart, In
This is an incredibly spiritually song sung by amazing singers. Dorothy Morrison's earthy, sultry voice declaring Jesus had washed her sins away could convince the soul of a dead man to live again. I have this on my ipod and it sounds incredible. The fact that this became a pop hit is fabulous.Camille - Toronto, Oh
My family got the album when I was 10 years old. I instantly loved it and do until this day. I searched on line but could never find the exact version so I converted it so I could listen on my ipod. Reading above that only 300 copies of the album were sold makes me feel even more special to own this wonderful song. O Happy Day !Scott - Berkeley, Ca
The groups lead soloist, Dorothy Combs Morrison, went on to have a solo career, and managed to score a single on the Billboard Hot 100 with "All God's Children Got Soul".Kristin - Bessemer, Al
The line is "watch and pray" not wash and pray, a command given by Jesus to his disciples before his death. The other line "he taught me how to live and rejoice" should read "and live re-joicing everyday everyday!" but sung "and live re-joic-ing ev-reeday:everyday!"Andrew - London, England
on august the 13 1992 I gave my life to Jesus and He changed my life totally. since that time life had a meaning when He washed my sins awayAsef - Silkeborg, Denmark
Here's a little bit of info foryou....The Mighty Clouds of Joy repeated that gospel/pop feat after The Edwin Hawkin Singers in 1976. "Mighty High" was a gosepl #1 Billboard hit, a Billboard pop hit and it also hit #1 on Billboard's dance charts (5 week run at #1). "Oh Happy Day" is so uplifting and it's one of those feel-good songs that leaves you happy and makes all depression vanish - if only for a minute.John-martin - Silver Creek, Ms
What an uplifting song by The Edwin Hawkins Singers.Howard - St. Louis Park, Mn
There is an irreverent cover version of this on the Spiritualized 'Live at the Albert Hall' album (think Jimi Hendrix' version of the Star Spangled Banner)featuring the London Community Gospel Choir.Paul - Glasgow, Scotland
The Edwin Hawkins Singers can also be heard on another hit from one year later, as the backup vocalists on Melanie (Safka)'s "Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)."Clarke - Pittsburgh, Pa
In Sister Act 2 Lauryn Hill leads the rest of the choir with this song. It was pretty good they gave it a modren twist.Lorne - Toronto, Canada
Wasn't this song performed by the kids in the cast of Sister Act II?Adam - Jupiter, Fl
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