S2-E12 Oh Happy Day

Joan Baez

Pour ce 12e épisode, je vous propose un tour à l’église.

S2-E12 Oh Happy Day

You can find a summary in English below.

Joan Baez à Woodstock, c’est par là
La version « originale » des Edwin Hawkins Singers peut s’écouter ici
La version de 1913 du Trinity Choir est disponible sur le site de la bibliothèque du congrès (Library of congress) ici

For my Friends who don’t speak French a summary in English. I hope it can help to follow what I say :

For this 12th episode, I offer you a tour of the church.

Sample of  the cover: Baez at Woodstock

It is almost one o’clock in the morning, this Saturday, August 16, 1969 when Joan Baez takes the stage two hours after Mélanie. After who? Melanie! The author of « Look what they done to my song », the credits of Ils Ont Repris Ma Chanson! The festival started chaotically. Joan Baez herself almost left, but those around her convince her to stay.

At only 28 years old, Joan Baez was then at the height of her glory. She embodies all the revolt of American youth. Since the beginning of the 1960s, she has been in every fight, alongside Martin Luther King or by blocking an army recruitment center, which will earn her a few months in prison. In Woodstock, six months pregnant, she begins by discussing the fate of her husband, Davis Harris, a conscientious objector and imprisoned since July. Then armed with her only guitar, she sings « Oh Happy Day ». Respect Mrs Baez!

Currently the most viewed version on YouTube is that of the film Sister Art 2, but you are surely showing that the origin of this gospel music standard is lost in the mists of time. It’s almost that. The song is inspired by an 18th century English religious hymn. Re-orchestrated at the turn of the 20th century, the Trinity Choir recorded a version on 78 rpm in 1913 entitled « Happy Day ».

Sample (Trinity Choir)

In the United Kingdom and the United States, the title is very quickly used during baptisms or professions of faith. But the reference gospel version these days is this:

Sample of  the original version (Edwin  Hawkings Singers)

The arrangement is by Edwin R. Hawkings, choir director of a gospel choir from California, composed of 46 young singers. This version is not intended to be commercialized, but only to promote the choir locally. It’s very short since only the chorus is kept. Text is reduced to these few lines:

  « Oh Happy Day, when Jesus washed my sins away! » He taught me how to watch, fight and pray, and live rejoicing every day »)

O good day, when Jesus washed away my sins,

He taught me to watch, to fight and to pray

and live rejoicing every day,

During the recording session in 1967, lead singer Dorothy Morrison added some improvisations said to be influenced by James Brown. The recording studio having only two tracks, if you listen with headphones you bury the singer on the left and the choir on the right. Anyway, the piece falls into the hands of a DJ from a San Francisco radio station who broadcasts it, sometimes several times a day. In April 1969, the 45T was released and the choir was renamed « The Edwin Hawkins Singers ». The success is colossal not only in the USA but also in France and Germany. In total, more than 7 million copies of the 45 rpm are sold worldwide.

This Mrs  Robinson  didn’t waste her day the day she recorded Oh Happy Day.

I wish you a very happy day and, slipping Joan Baez in your ears, I say see you soon for a new episode of Ils Ont Repris Ma Chanson.