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Sihler Lecture: Deborah Smith Pollard, “`When I Get to Heaven, I’m Gonna Jump and Shout’: Female Artists and the Life-Changing Song `Oh Happy Day’”

  • Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2019
  • Time: 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm
  • Location: CFL Recital Hall

In 1968, the Northern California State Choir recorded the album Let Us Go into the House of the Lord with plans to sell 500 copies at local churches. However, the cut “O Happy Day,” an arrangement of the 18th century hymn, gained such popularity that it was released internationally in 1969; with sales of over seven million copies, it remains the biggest-selling gospel single in history.

While many know the name of choir director/arranger Edwin Hawkins, few know that several female artists contributed to, built upon, or were inspired by the song. This lecture’s focus will be on such significant performers as: the original lead singer, Dorothy Combs Morrison, whose vocal range and quality as well as her lyrical additions were a major part of the song’s success; Tramaine Hawkins, a member of the choir in 1968, who became one of the most iconic gospel singers of the last half century; and Vickie Mack Lataillade who was so captivated by Hawkins’ contemporary gospel sound that she founded Gospo Centric Records and signed such chart-topping artists as Kirk Franklin and
Trin-I-Tee 5:7.  Other women whose careers are connected to this song in some way include folk singer/activist Joan Baez, gospel legend Dorothy Norwood, and international Evangelist Gwendolyn Reid.

This presentation will examine the extent to which these women expanded the popularity of the song and helped to challenge the prevailing boundaries regarding who can perform gospel music and where it can be performed as well as how one should look and sound while doing so

Questions? Contact Melanie Batoff, 563-387-1211