So it was interesting to me that, in a period of songs of protest about war and the human condition, “Oh Happy Day” by the Edwin Hawkins Singers, a gospel group out of northern California, became an international hit in 1969, reaching No. 4 in the US, No. 2 in both the UK singles chart and Irish Singles Chart, and No. 1 on the German Singles Charts. The Grammy-winning song has since become a gospel music standard. The lead singer was Dorothy Combs Morrison.
I did not know this:
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.
I did know that George Harrison had “stated the song was a primary inspiration in the writing of his 1970 international hit single My Sweet Lord.” [LISTEN] In fact, some musicologists believe the Harrison tune is more inspired structurally by the Hawkins tune than by the Chiffons’ song, “He’s So Fine” [LISTEN], over which Harrison had legal issues.
Dustbury’s write-up of the song.