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Bobby Hebb in 1966
|Birth name||Robert Von Hebb|
July 26, 1938|
Nashville, Tennessee, United States
|Died||August 3, 2010
Nashville, Tennessee, United States
He was born Robert Von Hebb in Nashville, Tennessee. Hebb's parents, William and Ovalla Hebb, were both blind musicians. Hebb and his older brother Harold performed as a song-and-dance team 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, which earned him a place with Grand Ole Opry star Roy Acuff. Hebb played spoons and other instruments in Acuff's band. Harold later became a member of Johnny Bragg and the Marigolds. Bobby Hebb sang backup on Bo Diddley's "Diddley Daddy". Hebb played "West-coast-style" trumpet in a United States Navy jazz band, and replaced Mickey Baker in Mickey and Sylvia.
On November 23, 1963, the day after John F. Kennedy's assassination, Harold Hebb was killed in a knife fight outside a Nashville nightclub. Hebb was devastated by both events and sought comfort in songwriting. Though many claim that the song he wrote after both tragedies was the optimistic "Sunny", Hebb himself stated otherwise. He immersed himself in the Gerald Wilson album, You Better Believe It!, for comfort.
- "All my intentions were just to think of happier times – basically looking for a brighter day – because times were at a low tide. 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".
"Sunny" was recorded in New York City, after demos were made with the record producer Jerry Ross. Released as a single, it reached #3 on the R&B charts, # 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, # 12 in the UK, sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. When Hebb toured with The Beatles in 1966 his "Sunny" was, at the time of the tour, ranked higher than any Beatles song then on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. BMI rated "Sunny" number 25 in its "Top 100 songs of the century".
"Sunny" has been recorded by, among others Jamiroquai, Cher, Boney M, Georgie Fame, Johnny Rivers, Oscar Peterson, Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra with Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Electric Flag, The Four Seasons, Leonard Nimoy, two different versions from Frankie Valli, the Four Tops, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Les McCann, Wes Montgomery, Dusty Springfield, and Classics IV. One re-recording, a disco version called "Sunny '76" was a minor hit for Hebb in that year hitting #94 on the R&B chart. In 2000, Musiq did an updated dance version retitled "Just Friends (Sunny)," which went to #31 on the U.S. Billboard charts.
Hebb also had lesser hits with his "A Satisfied Mind" in 1966 (#39 on the Billboard chart and #40 on the R&B chart) and "Love Me" in 1967 (# 84), and wrote many other songs, including Lou Rawls' 1971 hit "A Natural Man" (co-written with comedian Sandy Baron). Six years prior to "Sunny", Hebb reached the New York Top 50 with a remake of Roy Acuff's "Night Train to Memphis". In 1972, his single "Love Love Love" reached #32 in the UK charts.
After a recording gap of thirty five years, Hebb recorded That's All I Wanna Know, his first commercial release since Love Games for Epic Records in 1970. It was released in Europe in late 2005 by Tuition, a pop indie label. New versions of "Sunny" were also issued (two duets: one with Astrid North, and one with Pat Appleton). In October 2008 he toured and played in Osaka and Tokyo in Japan.
Ipanema Films of Germany was involved in a biographical film which included Hebb, his biographer Joseph Tortelli and Billy Cox.
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 205. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 309. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
- Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952-2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 350. ISBN 0-00-717931-6.
- "Bobby Hebb, singer of '66 hit 'Sunny,' dies at 72". Associated Press story. MSNBC. August 3, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
- Cooper, Daniel (1998). "Bobby Hebb". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 235.
- Official website
- Bobby Hebb at AllMusic
- Bobby Hebb discography at Discogs
- Bobby Hebb interview on Nashville Scene
- That's All I Wanna Know on Tuition Records, Germany
- Bobby Hebb at Find a Grave