Song of the Day: Sunny by Bobby Hebb

Sophie Griotto, Femme Africaine, 2013:

“Sunny” is a song written by Bobby Hebb. It is one of the most performed and recorded popular songs, with hundreds of versions released.

Lyrics:

Sunny, yesterday my life was filled with rain.
Sunny, you smiled at me and really eased the pain.
The dark days are gone, and the bright days are here,
My Sunny one shines so sincere.
Sunny one so true, I love you.

Sunny, thank you for the sunshine bouquet.
Sunny, thank you for the love you brought my way.
You gave to me your all and all.
Now I feel ten feet tall.
Sunny one so true, I love you.

Sunny, thank you for the truth you let me see.
Sunny, thank you for the facts from A to C.
My life was torn like a wind-blown sand,
And the rock was formed when you held my hand.
Sunny one so true, I love you.

Sunny, thank you for the smile upon your face.
Sunny, thank you for the gleam that shows its grace.
You’re my spark of nature’s fire,
You’re my sweet complete desire.
Sunny one so true, I love you.

Sunny, yesterday my life was filled with rain…

……

BMI rates “Sunny” number 25 in its “Top 100 songs of the century.”

Hebb’s parents, William and Ovalla Hebb, were both blind musicians. Hebb and his older brother Harold performed as a song-and-dance duo in Nashville, beginning when Bobby was three and Harold was nine. Hebb performed on a TV show hosted by country music record producer Owen Bradley.

Hebb wrote the song in the 48 hours following a double tragedy on November 22, 1963, the day U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and Hebb’s older brother Harold was stabbed to death outside a Nashville nightclub. Hebb was devastated by both events and many critics say that those events and critically the loss of his older brother inspired the lyrics and tune. According to Hebb, he merely wrote the song as an expression of a preference for a “sunny” disposition over a “lousy” disposition following the murder of his brother.

Events influenced Hebb’s songwriting, but his melody, crossing over into R&B (#3 on U.S. R&B chart) and Pop (#2 on U.S. Pop chart), together with the optimistic lyrics, came from the artist’s desire to express that one should always “look at the bright side”; a direct quote from the author. Hebb has said about “Sunny”: “All my intentions were to think of happier times and pay tribute to my brother – basically looking for a brighter day – because times were at a low. After I wrote it, I thought ‘Sunny’ just might be a different approach to what Johnny Bragg was talking about in ‘Just Walkin’ in the Rain.'”

Cover

  • It was recorded by German euro disco group Boney M., produced by Frank Farian and arranged by Stefan Klinkhammer in a euro disco arrangement.
  • Georgie Fame’s and Cher’s issues both charted in the UK Top 75 in 1966.
  • Other covering artists include Andy Williams, Shirley Bassey, Public Enemies, Richard Anthony, James Brown and Marva Whitney,Wes Montgomery, Robert Mitchum, the Classics IV, the Electric Flag, Jose Feliciano, Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald, The Four Seasons, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Earl Grant, Mary Wells, Paul Carrack, David Clayton-Thomas, Jamiroquai, Stanley Jordan, Marion Rung, Mina, Jimmy Smith, Johnny Mathis, Les McCann, Chris Montez, The Head Shop, Leonard Nimoy, Wilson Pickett, Los york’s, Del Shannon, Nick Cave, Oscar Peterson with Joe Pass and Ray Brown, Dusty Springfield, Helge Schneider,War, Ajico, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Twinset featuring Barnaby Weir, The Electric Flag, Terrorgruppe and The Walker Brothers.
  • Chilean singer Buddy Richard recorded the song in Spanish in 1964 with the title “Cielo” (meaning “darling” or “honey”).
  • Serbian-Yugoslavian singer Bisera Veletanlić recorded a version in Serbo-Croatian in 1967.
  • Luis Miguel recorded the song in Spanish for his 1987 album Soy Como Quiero Ser.
  • Frank Sinatra covered “Sunny” with Duke Ellington on their collaborative album, Francis A. & Edward K..
  • Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass made an instrumental version of “Sunny” on the LP album “The Brass Are Comin'” launched in 1969 (A & M SP 4228).
  • Cy Coleman’s jazz instrumental version appeared on the Record World “Non-Rock Top 40” in 1970.
  • Yambu recorded a 12″ inch extended play disco version of “Sunny” released in 1975. That version of the song is used in the Stephen Chow movie, CJ7.
  • Cris Barber recorded a version of the song on her 2008 album This Moment to Be Free.
  • Christophe Willem covered the song in 2006 (#3 in France, #9 in Belgium (Wallonia), #17 in Switzerland).
  • Mark Ronson did a live cover with Candie Payne at the Electric Proms
  • Saxophonist Stanley Turrentine also covered the song on his album “The Spoiler.”
  • Guitarist Pat Martino covered the song in 1972 on his first live album.
  • Arranger Pino Presti covered the song in 1976 on his album 1st Round (Atlantic Records T50274)
  • Mexican rock group Los Yaki covered this song and renamed it “Sonia”; it was later performed by the ska band Panteon Rococo.
  • Brazilian musician Léo Jaime made a Portuguese-language translation/adaptation of the song, entitled “Sônia”. It is present in his debut 1984 album Phodas “C”.
  • Japanese guitarists Issei Noro of Casiopea, Masahiro Andoh of T-Square and Hirokuni Korekata of KORENOS, covered this song with their supergroup, Ottottrio, on their 1998 album Triptych.
  • Bill Cosby covered this song on his 1968 album Bill Cosby Sings Hooray for the Salvation Army Band!
  • Ronnie Dove covered the song in 1970 on the independent Wrayco Records. However, it did not chart.
  • Justin Guarini performed this song in the Top 8 round of American Idol Season 1.
  • Italian singer Scanna performed this song on the Montefiori Cocktail’s album Raccolta N. 2.
  • Andreas Weise performed this song on his first audition of Swedish Idol Season 7.
  • Popular Japanese band Ulfuls performed a Japanese cover, titled “Yonin”.
  • Duo Diva Fever performed the song during the seventh season of The X Factor.
  • The song was also covered by Sunny, a Korean singer from the popular girl group Girls’ Generation, during their first Asia Tour.
  • The Chopsticks (a Hong Kong female duo, made up of Sandra Lang ( 仙杜拉) and Amina (亞美娜)), covered this as a medley song with “Chain Of Fools”, “Gimme Little Sign”, “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” on their 1971 LP All Of A Sudden.
  • An instrumental version of the song has been recorded by Booker T. and the M.G.’s and another by Manfred Mann on their 1966 EP Instrumental Assassination.
  • A previously unreleased version by the 1970s British vocal group Design was included on their 2012 CD One Sunny Day: Singles and Rarities 1968-1978.
  • The song was covered by The Electric Mayhem with Sgt. Floyd Pepper singing the lead vocals in Episode 4 of Season 1 of The Muppet Show in 1976.
  • Bryan Adams covered the song for his 2014 album Tracks of My Years.
  • A cover of the song was featured in season 2 episode 8 of the Showtime series Ray Donovan, also titled “Sunny”. The cover was performed by Kerris Dorsey and Octavius Johnson.

Bobby Hebb

Bobby Hebb.png

Birth name Robert Von Hebb
Born July 26, 1938
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Died August 3, 2010 (aged 72)
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Occupation(s) Singer, musician, songwriter, recording artist, performer
Instruments Vocals, piano, guitar
Years active 1955‒2010
Labels Cadet, Crystal Ball, Epic,Laurie, Mercury, Philips,Scepter, Tuition

image by Sophie Griotto

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