“All God’s Children Got Soul” one of the most prolific songs ever that was performed by an literally unknown vocalist. Some of us may not be familiar with her name, but we’ve heard her voice many times when we hear her on the Edwin Hawkins Singers hit, “Oh Happy Day“. That warm, soulful voice belongs to Ms. Dorothy Combs Morrison.
Born in Longview, Texas and raised in Richmond California, her parents were ministers, where she and her siblings practically grew up singing every Sunday in their church. When Ms. Morrison had turned thirteen, she and her siblings began singing professionally; touring to different churches and the San Fransisco, Oakland areas. The were known as the “The Combs Family”.
Fame fell upon Ms. Morrison in the year of 1969, when Edwin Hawkins asked her if she would join his choir. “Oh Happy Day”, a song that Edwin Hawkins had written prior to hearing Ms. Morrison’s voice during one of her performances that he attended in the Bay Area. He strongly felt that her voice would be perfect for his new song. After received an ‘OK’ from a family, she had joined the Edwin Hawkins Singers and she sang lead vocals on “Oh Happy Day”.
“Oh Happy Day” and other tracks were recorded at The Ephesians Church of God, Edwin Hawkin’s church in Berkeley California. If you listen to the stereo version of the recording, you can hear Ms. Morrison’s lead vocal performance from the left speaker. “Oh Happy Day wan an international hit.
The now famous, the choir had started their tour to promote their current hit single and LP. The Edwin Hawkins Singers, were on the road and toured with Van Morrison, Boz Scaggs , and other big acts of the time. Ms. Morrison also appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
Ms. Morrison, was busy traveling and doing performances including a live outdoor concert, where she and her sisters (The Comb Sisters) were featured in the 1969 Big Sur Fok Festival. Her performance of “All God’s Children Got Soul“, was her only solo performance that made the Billboard Top 100 chart.
While touring, she officially embarked on a solo career. She recorded a gospel album that was also “crossover” friendly. The album, “Brand New Day” was released in 1970 on Buddah Records. The album spawned two singles, “Spirit In The Sky” a cover that was originally sung by Norman Greenbaum and “Border Song (Holy Moses)” sung by Elton John. Recently, she had teamed with Huey Lewis and the News and re-recorded “Respect Yourself”, that was released on Soulsville in 2010.
Hopefully, you will now have an appreciation for the voice behind “Oh Happy Day” and it have peaked your interest enough to either located and purchase the rare vinyl, or download her music and add it to your music library.