When I recently took a look at one of my favourite R&B Gospel singing groups, The Staple Singers, it reminded me of a Gospel Group from 1969 that I enjoyed…
Video: Oh Happy Day
1. Oh Happy Day (featuring Dorothy Combs Morrison)/ Pavillion 20001/ May 1969/ #4
2. Lay Down (Candles in the Rain) Featuring Melanie/ Buddah 167/ May 1970/ #6
Edwin Hawkins (born 18 August 1943, Oakland, California) is a Grammy Award-winning American gospel and R&B musician, pianist, choir master, composer and arranger. He is one of the originators of the urban contemporary gospel sound. He (and the Edwin Hawkins Singers) are best known for his arrangement of “Oh Happy Day” (1968–69), which was included on the Songs of the Century list. The Edwin Hawkins Singers made a second foray into the charts a year later, backing folk singer Melanie on “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)“.
At the age of seven Hawkins was already the keyboardist to accompany the family’s gospel choir. Together with Betty Watson he was the co-founder of the Northern California State Youth Choir of the Church of God in Christ, which included almost 50 members. This ensemble recorded its first album Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord at the Ephesian Church of God in Christ in Berkeley, California, hoping to sell 500 copies. “Oh Happy Day” was just one of the eight songs on the album.
When radio stations of the San Francisco Bay area started playing “Oh Happy Day”, it became very popular. Featuring the lead vocal of Dorothy Combs Morrison, the subsequently released single rocketed to sales of over a million copies within two months. It crossed over to the pop charts making U.S. #4 and UK #2 and #1 in the German Singles Charts in 1969. It then became an international success, selling more than 7 million copies worldwide, and Hawkins was awarded his first Grammy for it. Hawkins’ arrangement of the song was eventually covered by The Four Seasons on their 1970 album Half & Half.