Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Oh Happy Day

First recorded (as “Happy Day”) by The Trinity Choir (1913).
Hit versions by The Edwin Hawkins Singers (recorded 1967 |US #4/UK #2/CAN #2/IRE #2/GER #1 1969), Glen Campbell (US #40/MOR #7/C&W #25/CAN #11 1970).

From the wiki: “‘Oh Happy Day’ is a 1967 gospel music arrangement of an 18th-century hymn with long pedigree. It was 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 the song was commonly used for baptismal or confirmation ceremonies in the UK and US. Hawkins’ new arrangement contained only the repeated Rimbault refrain, with all of the original verses omitted.

“The first known recording dates from July 17, 1913, on Victor 17499, by the Trinity Choir.

“The Edwin Hawkins Singers began as The Northern California State Youth Choir of the Church of God in Christ, Inc., and was founded in 1967 by Hawkins and Betty Watson. Members were aged 17–25. As was common in gospel circles they produced and distributed their own LP, Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord, recorded live at Ephesian Church of God in Christ, in Berkeley, CA. ‘Oh, Happy Day’, featuring Dorothy Morrison as lead vocalist, was later picked up by a local Oakland, CA, radio disc-jockey, KSAN’s Bob McClay, and subsequently released commercially.

“‘Oh Happy Day’ would become an international best-seller and Hawkins’ contemporary arrangement quickly became a ‘standard’. It was included on the RIAA Songs of the Century list and won Hawkins a Grammy Award for Best Soul Gospel Performance in 1970 (performed by the Edwin Hawkins Singers). A similarly arranged recording of ‘Oh Happy Day’, by Glen Campbell, charted Top-30 on the Country Singles chart in 1970 and Top-10 on the Adult-contemporary chart.”

Trivia: Regardless of the copyright settlement George Harrison accepted vis-a-vis the plagiarism lawsuit against him by the songwriters of ‘He’s So Fine’, Harrison claimed ‘Oh Happy Day’ to be the primary inspiration in the writing of his 1970 international hit single ‘My Sweet Lord‘.”

The Edwin Hawkins Singers, “Oh Happy Day” (1969):

Glen Campbell, “Oh Happy Day” (1970):

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