Songwriter Rolf Kempf had moved from Toronto to Los Angeles to aid his burgeoning music career, but his band soon decamped, and to make matters worse, someone had stolen his guitar. Reflecting on these events, jamming on a borrowed guitar beside a swimming pool, he composed Hello, Hooray, a song about reinventing oneself after hard times. A few days later, Judy Collins stopped by, looking for new songs to extend her folk-singer boundaries. Kempf offered his newest creation. “I fell in love with it the moment I heard it,” Collins declared in her memoirs.
Thus, it was how Collins, with Elektra Records producer David Anderle, came to record Hello, Hooray on her 1968 folk-pop album “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” (along with a few other Canadian classics: Ian Tyson’s Someday Soon and Leonard Cohen’s Bird on a Wire).
The lyrics Collins sang were Kempf’s original words about renewing the spirit at those times when you have to pick yourself up and start over (“Ready as a man to be born, only to be born again”), with a hint at Eastern mysticism and reincarnation, in this life or the next. Here’s where it gets really interesting: Rocker Alice Cooper (the stage name of Vincent Furnier) heard the potential for the lines “Let the show begin/Let the lights grow dim” to directly address his concert audiences. He added his own lyrics about the special dynamic between a star and his fans. Songwriter Kempf, far from objecting to the liberties, was delighted with the new lyrics. “He got the emotional essence of the tune right, and added a tag to bring it home,” the composer said.
Alice Cooper recorded his arena-rock interpretation of Hello, Hooray as the opening song on his 1973 “Billion Dollar Babies” album, produced by Bob Ezrin (later a Canadian Music Hall of Famer and Juno-winner), with Steve Hunter providing a slide-guitar solo. Warner Brothers Records released the 45-rpm single (Warner 7673) with Generation Landslide on the B side. Cooper’s single took an early start at No. 2 on “Billboard” magazine’s Pop Picks column for 20 January 1973, and in March peaked at No. 35 on Billboard’s Top 40 chart.
Hello, Hooray was even more popular in the United Kingdom, where the single peaked at No. 6 in February 1973, and was No. 66 overall for that year. The single was also competitive in Canada, featuring for over 10 weeks on RPM’s Top 100 Singles chart through spring 1973, peaking March 24 at No. 18 for two weeks.
The next year, Cooper re-released the single as part of a Back-to-Back Hits series. Singer Meg Christian also recorded it with yet another set of lyrics, this time with a feminist bent.
The song has had a varied and successful run, from Judy Collins singing it at the Lincoln Center in 1969, to its appearance in the 2014 futuristic film “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” It has been a regular in Alice Cooper’s playlist, opening their shows for over 40 years starting in 1973. Hello, Hooray has also been featured on the albums “Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits” (1974), “The Beast of Alice Cooper” (1989), “The Definitive Alice Cooper” (2001), and “Good to See You Again, Alice Cooper” (2005). Other acts who have recorded the song include Pig (Raymond Watts), and The Frankenstein Drag Queens From Planet 13.
Rolf Kempf, the song’s creator, sings Hello, Hooray on some of his own albums, and has performed it at athletic events including the Vancouver Paralympic Games.
Rolf Kempf studied English literature at Hamilton’s McMaster University, performed in a folk group around Toronto, and moved to Los Angeles in the late 1960s. Based now in Surrey, BC, Kempf performs folk, world, jazz, and instrumental music. He continues to co-write on occasion with Alan Gerber and Stephen Kalinich, who has co-written several songs with Brian Wilson in the Pet Sounds era.