Chancellor of Soul's Chronicles-Journals
Dedicated To The
Historical Preservation Of R&B, Pop and It's Artists and Music
Oh Happy Day
(The Most Controversial Song of 1969?)
1969, the last year of the great decade engraved many impressions,
the hallways of our mind. In the 60’s, R&B would bring the world to
its knees proclaiming
‘soul’ as king to the music throne. Gospel played a pivotal
connection in the development of R&B music and generate a spiritual
union in the black community. One beautiful composition would
galvanize a community of music lovers from all walks of life and a
resurgence to their church roots.
The incomparable...’Oh Happy Day’.
In May 1967, Edwin Hawkins, born 1943 in Oakland, California and his
Watson, organized a 46 piece gospel choir to represent their church
in Oakland, ‘The Ephesian Church of God in Christ’. Edwin
needed to raise funds for a trip to sing at a
convention given at the National Youth Congress, in Cleveland.
The choir recorded an LP of 8 songs including the 18th century fiery
gospel composition, ‘Oh Happy Day’ in the basement of the Berkeley
Church of Christ in San Francisco. Recorded on a old two-track ampex
tape machine, the album entitled ‘Let Us Go Into The House Of
The Lord’ went on to sell 600 copies.
Two years later in 1969, a rock promoter in San Francisco, John
Lingel, happened to find the LP in a stack of gospel records in an
old warehouse. He gave the album to a popular
disc jockey Abe ’Voco’ Kesh of KSAN radio.
Abe fell in love with ‘Oh Happy Day’ and featured it on his program.
Listeners lid up the switchboards asking where to buy the song. A
promoter of Buddah Records happened
to be in San Francisco, listened to the show and made a deal to
purchase the LP from Abe. Pavilion (distributed by Buddah
Records) released ‘Oh Happy Day’ b/w ‘Jesus, Lover of My Soul’ in
the spring of 1969 as a single.
The song charted No. 2 on Billboard's R&B singles chart the week
ending Sat June 7, 1969. 'Oh Happy Day’ crossover to the No. 4
position on the Pop singles chart, Sat May 31, 1969, becoming the
first successful gospel standard in music history to sell over 7
million copies worldwide! It won a Grammy for Best Gospel Soul
The LP ‘Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord’ picked up by Buddah
for national distribution, charted No 5 on the R&B LP charts
on June 14, 1969. Dorothy Morrison was featured as the legendary
soloist on ‘Oh Happy Day’. Other great soloists on the album
include, Elaine Kelly (‘To My Father’s House) Margarette Branch
(‘I’m Going Through’) Betty Watson (‘Early In The Morning’). Trio-
Trumaine Davis, Rueben Franklin, Donald Cashmere (‘I Heard The Voice
Of Jesus’) and duet-Trumaine Davis and Ruth Lyons (‘Joy, Joy’).
Dorothy Morrison went on to prominence as a solo artist in the late
60’s thru the 70’s.
Controversy flared when dee jays were in a difficult decision on
what category to place the song on their program because of its
sacred message. Considering the sensitivity and response of the
black community, radio programmers felt that the record collectively
would swing back the spirituality of the listeners and bring
reclamation of togetherness in the community. The gospel disk
was then categorized as R&B/ Pop on the play list.
Edwin Hawkins felt that popularity not tradition should decide the
extend of airplay. His intent was to create a mod gospel sound that
featured a positive message to a wider audience and still retain the
traditional gospel fervor among listeners.
More controversy ignited when Buddah Records was involved in a New
York Supreme Court case against ABC’s subsidiary label Dunhill
because of unfair competition with another gospel group the Southern
Indenominational California Youth Choir, who simultaneously released
a version of ‘Oh Happy Day’ that spring. Formerly known as the
Northern California State Youth Choir on the Buluu label, the Buddah
their name as the Edwin Hawkins Singers. The case was settled.
The song’s success has been answered with encore issues by such acts
as the American Rock Revival on Bell Records, the Pat Rebillot
Exchange on Silver Fox, the Trumpets of Jericho on Hob and the Billy
Mitchell Trio on Calla Records.
The Edwin Hawkins Singers contribute background to Melanie's 1970
biographical Woodstock hit, 'Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)'
but faded into obscurity after constant personnel changes
within the group.
The legacy of ‘Oh Happy Day’ continued to live through years of
vinyl/ CD reissues and compilations and has been featured in the
1993 movie, ‘Sister Act 2’ starring Whoopi Goldberg and singer
Lauren Hill. It also opened the doors for gospel acts like Kirk
Franklin to combine hip hop to gospel, creating a new wave of
listeners in the millennium of the 21 century.
‘Oh Happy Day’ broke the barriers of category where its message
overpowered decisions made in the music industry to showcase it as a
separate identity but to replenish our inner spirit with
nutrients of wisdom and be free of mental impurities brought on by
worldly contaminations of war, poverty, and violence.
Like God's creation of the birds and the bees
Jesus is truly the lover of my soul forever !
(Chancellor of Soul)
Materials should not be used or altered without the expressed
permission of the author, Mike Boone,
Chancellor of Soul
[Chancellor of Soul's WCOS Internet Soul
of Soul's Chronicles-Journals Dedicated To The
Historical Preservation Of R&B, Pop and It's Artists and Music]
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