November 14

“Oh Happy Day:” The Gospel Song That Crossed Over the Pop Chart

One of the simplest but most meaningful gospel songs that existed is “Oh Happy Day.” It’s a short hymn with repeated lines but has a deeper message behind it.

The Making of The Song

In 1968, Edwin Hawkins, a pianist at the Ephesian Church of God, wrote eight songs and compiled them together. Hawkins wrote these singles for his youth choir. They were in need of money for a church trip at that time. Therefore, the only way for them to get the fund is to record an album and sell it. One of the tracks on the album was “Oh Happy Day.”

Edwin Hawkins Arrangement

“Oh Happy Day” was first written in the mid-18th century with its tune. Then, during the 19th century, the melody of the hymn was changed, and a chorus was added by Edward Rimbault. When Hawinks rearranged the song, he changed the music and only used Rimbault’s version.

Chart Performance of “Oh Happy Day”

Hawkins’ single “Oh Happy Day” became internationally known. It has entered seven charts outside of the US. In addition, “Oh Happy Day” was the very first gospel song to enter the Billboard Hot 100. It also secured a spot on the Adult Contemporary and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts. Hawkins’ marvelous writing skills coupled with his group’s exceptional talents, Edwin Hawkins Singers, led to winning the Grammy Award for Best Soul Gospel Performance in 1970. Moreover, his single was included on RIAA’s Songs of the Century List.

Cover Versions

The popularity of this gospel song reached thousands of people, and even artists couldn’t resist it. Particularly, singers such as Joan Baez, Glen Campbell, Quincy Jones, and many more adapted the song for their album.

Joan Baez’s Version

“Oh Happy Day:” The Gospel Song That Crossed Over the Pop Chart 1

In 1969, Joan Baez performed her version of “Oh Happy Days” at the Woodstock music festival. In addition, Baez made the song part of her soundtrack album Carry It On. Baez’s performance as heard in the video below was a blast. You can hear the crowd cheering while she sings “Oh Happy Day.” The best part was when Baez was singing, and the crowd joined her by clapping their hands at the same time.


Edward Rimbault, Edwin Hawkins, Joan Baez, Oh Happy Day

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