Sunny (Bobby Hebb song)

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Sunny - bobby hebb single.jpg
Single by Bobby Hebb
from the album Sunny
ReleasedJune 1966
RecordedFebruary 21, 1966
StudioBell Sound Studios, New York City
GenreSoul jazz
Songwriter(s)Bobby Hebb
Producer(s)Jerry Ross
Bobby Hebb singles chronology
"A Satisfied Mind"
"Sunny '76"
Sunny - bobby hebb single 2.jpg
Single by Bobby Hebb
B-side"Proud Soul Heritage"
Songwriter(s)Bobby Hebb
Producer(s)Joe Renzetti & Marty Sheriden

"Sunny" is a soul jazz song written by Bobby Hebb in 1963. It is one of the most performed and recorded popular songs, with hundreds of versions released. BMI rates "Sunny" #25 in its "Top 100 songs of the century".[1] It is also known by its first line: "Sunny, yesterday my life was filled with rain".[2]

Background and composition[edit]

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 after his older brother, Harold, was stabbed to death outside a Nashville nightclub. Hebb was devastated by the event and many critics say it 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.[3]

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". 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.'"

Bobby Hebb version[edit]

The personnel on the Bobby Hebb recording included Joe Shepley, Burt Collins on trumpet, Micky Gravine on trombone, Artie Kaplan and Joe Grimaldi on sax, Artie Butler on piano, Joe Renzetti and Al Gorgoni on guitar, Paul (PB) Brown and Joe Macho on bass, Al Rogers on drums and George Devens on percussion. The song was recorded while the session was in overtime; many of the studio musicians booked for that date had to leave early for other recording sessions. Joe Renzetti was the arranger.

"Sunny" was originally part of an 18-song demo recorded by producer Jerry Ross, also famous for Spanky and Our Gang, Keith's "98.6" and "Apple, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie" by Jay & the Techniques (Hebb was offered this song but didn't want to be considered a novelty act and let the song go to Jay Proctor).

"Sunny" was recorded at Bell Sound Studios in New York City and released as a single in 1966. It met with immediate success, which resulted in Hebb touring in 1966 with the Beatles. The song peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in late August 1966.[4]