Sunshine on My Shoulders

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"Sunshine on My Shoulders"
Side A of 1974 US single release
Single by John Denver
from the album Poems, Prayers & Promises
A-side"I'd Rather Be a Cowboy" (original)
B-side"Around and Around" (reissue)
ReleasedMay 1973 (original)
October 22, 1973 (reissue)
Length3:18 (Single version)
5:12 (Album version)
LabelRCA Records
Producer(s)Milt Okun
John Denver singles chronology
"Rocky Mountain High"
"Sunshine on My Shoulders"
"Annie's Song"

"Sunshine on My Shoulders" (sometimes titled simply "Sunshine") is a song recorded and co-written by American singer-songwriter John Denver. It was originally released as an album track on 1971's Poems, Prayers & Promises and later, as a single in 1973. It went to No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the U.S. in early 1974.

Song history[edit]

Denver described how he wrote "Sunshine on My Shoulders": "I wrote the song in Minnesota at the time I call 'late winter, early spring'. It was a dreary day, gray and slushy. The snow was melting and it was too cold to go outside and have fun, but God, you're ready for spring. You want to get outdoors again and you're waiting for that sun to shine, and you remember how sometimes just the sun itself can make you feel good. And in that very melancholy frame of mind I wrote 'Sunshine on My Shoulders'."

The song was slightly remixed for single release, with the addition of strings and woodwinds to enhance the background of the song. The album version features an extra verse, not heard on the Singles charts, due to the song's length. In addition to Denver's first verse describing if he had a day and a song, the second verse mentions Denver's describing if he had a tale and a wish. The song ends with the words "Sunshine almost always" (instead of "Sunshine always"), being held on until the song's end. The full length single mix with the second verse has been released on most of Denver's hits compilations.

It was originally the B-side of one of his earlier songs, "I'd Rather Be a Cowboy". As the Vietnam War came to an end, the song took on a new significance and began to receive airplay on adult contemporary radio stations. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No.90 on January 26, 1974, and moved into the No.1 spot nine weeks later, remaining at No. 1 for one week. The song also topped the adult contemporary chart for two weeks in 1974.[4] Billboard ranked it as the No. 18 song for 1974. Cash Box said "Soft, tender ballad receives a treatment equal to the task and the pretty lyrics come shining through as a result. A good remedy for relaxation in these troubled times."[5] Record World said that "Denver scores with this ballad which will send him back home to the top of the charts."[6]


  • John Denver – 6 & 12-string acoustic guitars, vocals
  • Mike Taylor – acoustic guitar
  • Richard Kniss – double bass
  • Frank Owens – piano

The song also features strings and winds, including oboes.

In popular culture[edit]

A 2+12-hour made-for-television movie titled Sunshine, which aired on NBC in 1973, used the song as a theme. The movie starred Cliff DeYoung and Cristina Raines. It told the story of a young mother dying from cancer.[7] High ratings prompted a TV series (also Sunshine) which ran for three months during the summer of 1974. The short-lived series began where the movie left off with the young widowed father (DeYoung) raising his stepdaughter (Elizabeth Cheshire).

In the John Denver biographical film Take Me Home: The John Denver Story (2000) it is played when Denver (Chad Lowe) takes his new glider out for a test flight. This final scene is based on the real life event that killed Denver in 1997. The 1996 re-recorded version is the one that is played.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1974) Peak
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[8] 1
Canada Adult Contemporary (RPM)[9] 2
US Billboard Hot 100[10] 1
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[11] 1
US Hot Country Singles (Billboard)[12] 42


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)[13] Gold 100,000[13]
United States (RIAA)[14] Gold 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Carly Rae Jepsen version[edit]

"Sunshine on My Shoulders"
Single by Carly Rae Jepsen
from the album Tug of War
ReleasedJune 16, 2008
GenreAcoustic, pop rock
LabelFontana North, MapleMusic
Songwriter(s)John Denver, Dick Kniss, Mike Taylor
Carly Rae Jepsen singles chronology
"Sunshine on My Shoulders"
"Tug of War"

The song was covered by Canadian singer-songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen as the lead single from her debut studio album, Tug of War, released on June 16, 2008.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Breihan, Tom (May 13, 2019). "The Number Ones: John Denver's "Sunshine On My Shoulders"". Stereogum. Retrieved June 19, 2023. And while it's kind of a cynical move to add overdubbed strings to an acoustic folk song that you're trying to get onto the radio...
  2. ^ Stanley, Bob (September 13, 2013). "Beyond the Blue Horizon: Country and Western". Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop. Faber & Faber. p. 403. ISBN 978-0-571-28198-5.
  3. ^ Segretto, Mike (2022). "1974". 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Minute - A Critical Trip Through the Rock LP Era, 1955–1999. Backbeat. pp. 296–297. ISBN 9781493064601.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–2001. Record Research. p. 76.
  5. ^ "CashBox Record Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. January 19, 1974. p. 16. Retrieved December 11, 2021.
  6. ^ "Hits of the Week" (PDF). Record World. January 19, 1974. p. 1. Retrieved March 17, 2023.
  7. ^ St. Marie, Jeanne (2000). John Denver and Me. iUniverse. p. 2. ISBN 1469705753.
  8. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 5000a." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. April 6, 1974.
  9. ^ "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 5037." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. April 13, 1974.
  10. ^ "John Denver Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  11. ^ "John Denver Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard.
  12. ^ "Hot Country Singles". Billboard. Vol. 86, no. 16. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. April 20, 1974. p. 34. ISSN 0006-2510.
  13. ^ a b "International Dateline - Brazil" (PDF). Cash Box. November 14, 1981. p. 30. Retrieved March 17, 2023.
  14. ^ "American single certifications – John Denver – Sunshine on my shoulders". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved March 17, 2023.


  • The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, Billboard Books, 9th edition, 2010, ISBN 978-0823085545