You Are My Sunshine

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"You Are My Sunshine"
Song
PublishedJanuary 30, 1940 Southern Music Publishing Co Inc[1][2][3][4]
Songwriter(s)Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell
"You Are My Sunshine"
Pine Ridge Boys - You Are My Sunshine 78 (Bluebird).jpg
Single by The Pine Ridge Boys
ReleasedOctober 6, 1939 (1939-10-06)[5]
RecordedAugust 22, 1939 (1939-08-22)[6]
StudioAtlanta, Georgia
GenreHillbilly
Length2:45
LabelBluebird B-8263[7]
Songwriter(s)not listed
"You Are My Sunshine"
JimmieDavis1940promo.jpg
Single by Jimmie Davis with Charles Mitchell's Orchestra
B-side"Old Timer"
ReleasedMarch 25, 1940 (1940-03-25)[8]
RecordedFebruary 5, 1940 (1940-02-05)[9]
StudioDecca Recording Studios, New York City[10]
GenreHillbilly
Length2:47
LabelDecca 5813[11]
Songwriter(s)Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell
"You Are My Sunshine"
Gene Autry220.jpg
Single by Gene Autry
B-side"It Makes No Difference Now"
ReleasedJuly 10, 1941 (1941-07-10)
RecordedJune 18, 1941 (1941-06-18)[12]
StudioCBS Columbia Square Studio, Hollywood, California
GenreHillbilly
Length2:25
LabelOkeh 6274[13]
Songwriter(s)Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell
Gene Autry singles chronology
"Tears On My Pillow"
(1941)
"You Are My Sunshine"
(1941)
"God Must Have Loved America"
(1941)

"You Are My Sunshine" is a song copyrighted and published by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell[14][15] in 1940. According to BMI, it has been recorded by more than 350 artists, and translated into 30 languages.[16] In 1977, the Louisiana State Legislature decreed that “You Are My Sunshine” would be a state song, to honor two-time governor Jimmie Davis.[17]

Writing and recording[edit]

Earliest performances and recordings[edit]

The Pine Ridge Boys recorded the song under the title "You Are My Sunshine" on August 22, 1939, and released it on October 6 for Bluebird Records (Victor's budget label). "The Boys" (Marvin Taylor and Doug Spivey) were from Atlanta, which is where the recording was made.[18][19] No songwriter was listed.[20]

The Rice Brothers' Gang recorded the song next for Decca, on September 13, 1939,[21] and released it the following month. This group was originally from Northern Georgia, but relocated to Shreveport, LA, where they performed on the radio station KWKH. The songwriter was listed as "Paul Rice".[22][23]

Copyright and publication[edit]

On January 30, 1940, "You Are My Sunshine" was copyrighted by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell, and published by Southern Music Publishing Co., Inc. of New York[24].The pair recorded it on February 5, 1940, at Decca Studios in New York.[25] Both received song-writing credit, and when the copyright was renewed on February 2, 1967, both names were on it.[26] Southern Music Publishing Co., Inc. is still run by the Peer Family, though BMI now lists it by an acronym, APRS, c/o Peermusic.[3][27]

Claims of ownership[edit]

According to a November 1990 article by Theodore Pappas, in Chronicles Magazine, the true writer of the song was Oliver Hood of LaGrange, Georgia.[28][29] He asserts that Davis never actually claimed authorship, because he bought the song, along with all the rights, from Paul Rice, before copyrighting and publishing, a practice not uncommon in the pre-World War II music business.[30] Though some early versions of the song credit the Rice Brothers, descendants and associates of Oliver Hood, a musician who collaborated with Rice, state that Hood wrote the song in the early 1930s and first performed it in 1933, at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention at LaGrange.[30]

A newspaper article in the Shreveport Times related: “on a day in 1939 - no one seems to remember the exact date - Charles Mitchell and Jimmie Davis called the station KWKH to see Paul Rice (who was playing there at the time). Paul’s wife was in the hospital and he needed cash to pay her bills. He sold “Sunshine” to Davis and Mitchell for $35. Each put in 17.50."[31] Paul Rice said: “I wrote You Are my Sunshine in 1937. Where I got the idea for it, a girl over in South Carolina wrote me this long letter - it was long about seventeen pages. And she was talking about how I was her sunshine. I got the idea for the song and put a tune to it.” According to Rice, “At least 20 people claimed to have written ‘You Are My Sunshine.’ I had a gal write me from California (should be South Carolina) that she wrote it.”[32]

Davis lived to be 101 years old, and gave a number of conflicting accounts. When interviewed by Dorothy Horstman for her 1975 book 'Sing Your Heart Out Country Boy,'[33] he didn’t claim authorship of the song, but instead related its history of popularity.[32]

Tony Russell states, "Though Mitchell's name appears on the copyright listing, he had already sold his half share to Davis."[34] This is not reflected in the records of the United States Copyright Archives, which give the name, date and renewal number, "Charles Mitchell (A); 2Feb67; R403742".[35].

Chart performance[edit]

"You Are My Sunshine" was one of Jimmie Davis' biggest-selling records (one source claims it was "among the top five country music recordings of that year"),[30] and it has enjoyed continual success ever since. In 1940, the Vocalion version by Bob Atcher and Bonnie Blue Eyes, released in February, went to number 1 on the embryonic Billboard Top Hillbilly Recordings of the Month (July 27, 1940, issue).[36] Perhaps thanks to the popularity of the Davis and Atcher versions, the original 1939 recording by The Pine Ridge Boys peaked at number 4 on October 26, 1940.[37] Wayne King and his Orchestra recorded the first version to hit the popular music chart on September 4, and reached number 19 on November 9, 1940.[38][39]

On March 14, 1941, the Gene Autry movie "Back In The Saddle" debuted, with Autry singing his signature song, "Back In The Saddle Again," and "You Are My Sunshine". On June 18,[40] he recorded the latter at CBS Columbia Square Studio, Hollywood, California, and it was released July 10 on Okeh Records. On July 8, 1941 (1941-07-08), Bing Crosby recorded his version at Decca Recording Studios, New York City, also released in July.[41] Both recordings made the National Best-Selling Charts,[42] with Autry going to number 1 on the Billboard Top Hillbilly Recordings chart on September 27,[43] where he remained for over 20 weeks, into January 1942. Autry's version remained on the chart for much of 1942,[44] finally bowing out after 50 weeks.[45]

Notable renditions[edit]

As of 2020, "You Are My Sunshine" has been around for over eighty years, and become an American Standard, performed by artists in every genre. There are approximately 400 recordings, and it has been included in over 100 movies. Some of the more significant recordings are listed in this section. For soundtrack recordings, go here. After popular and country recordings released 1939 to 1941 reached the ears of the American public, artists in other genres adapted the song to their style.

  • 1941 Western Swing band Ocie Stockard and the Wanderers recorded "You Are My Sunshine" on March 18, 1941.[46][47]
  • 1947 Jimmie Davis covered his own song on several occasions over the years, especially for movies he appeared in. After he was elected Governor of Louisiana in 1944, he found time to record 'the Jimmie Davis Souvenir Album' for Decca on July 29, 1946. It was released in April 1947 on four 10" Shelac 78rpm discs, with eight fresh recordings of his hits, including " You Are My Sunshine" Decca 46036.[51][52][53]
  • 1959 Country Studio version number 3 by Jimmie Davis, running successfully for his second term as Louisiana Governor. "You Are My Sunshine" Decca 30960 recorded February 5, 1959 from the album 'You Are My Sunshine', Decca DL 8896 released June 1959.[65]

Appearances within popular culture[edit]

Cinema[edit]

Radio[edit]

Television[edit]

  • In the 1996 Goosebumps episode "It Came from Beneath the Sink",[93] the main antagonist, a sponge-shaped monster called a "Grool," begins shrinking when it hears the song on a personal cassette player, revealing to the protagonists that the Grool's weakness is love and positive emotion.
  • In the 1997 The Simpsons episode "The Secret War of Lisa Simpson", Marge Simpson sends a recording of herself singing "You Are My Sunshine" to her daughter, who is homesick while enrolled in a military school.[94] This is often described as one of the most touching moments of the series, Sam Scott of Looper calling it "one of the most powerful moments of melancholy beauty in a series that got them down to an art form."[95][96]
  • In the 2016 TV series Bloodline, Robert Rayburn frequently strums the song on his ukulele and sings it throughout season 1,[97][98] and in season 2, episode 9 (airdate May 28, 2017) Evangeline sings it to Nolan and Sally.
  • In March 2020, British choirmaster Gareth Malone announced a new initiative titled the Great British Home Chorus, a new home choir for people internationally whilst everyone was stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the finale, Malone orchestrated a choral version of "You Are My Sunshine", with over 11,000 singers taking part, accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra. The song was released as a single, with all the profits being donated to NHS Charities Together.[99]

Sports[edit]

Recognition[edit]

After Davis’ second term as governor, his admirers were disappointed when Gov. John J. McKeithen vetoed a bill in 1968 that would have made ‘’You Are My Sunshine’’ Louisiana’s official song. The reason was that the song said not a word about Louisiana. Virginia Shehee, a long-time Davis family friend and member of the Louisiana State Senate from 1976 to 1980, re-introduced legislation to make "You Are My Sunshine" the official state song.[103] In 1977, the Legislature decreed that “You Are My Sunshine” would share honors as the state song with “Give Me Louisiana” by Doralice Fontane.[104]

As the millenium drew near, Hall of Fame organizations started drawing up lists to honor the best music of the 20th Century. On September 2, 1992, Country America magazine designated "You Are My Sunshine" 35th on it's Top 100 Country Songs of All-Time list. Next, it was among the pre-1950 records selected to join the Grammy Hall of Fame on February 24, 1999,[105] On June 17, Groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the new Country Music Hall of Fame in downtown Nashville, and the event included a guitar marching band, led by Chet Atkins, playing "Wildwood Flower" and "You Are My Sunshine."[106]

In 2000, the Songwriter's Hall of Fame chose Davis' version of "You Are My Sunshine" to receive it's Towering Song Award[107][108] The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) published their list of the top 365 "Songs Of The Century" on March 7, 2001, and "You Are My Sunshine" placed #14.[109] The Country Music Foundation published "Heartaches By The Number," celebrating country's "500 greatest singles," on March 14, 2003, with "You Are My Sunshine" by Jimmie Davis on the list. On June 8, 2003, it ranked #73 on CMT's "100 Greatest Songs Of Country Music."[110] On March 21, 2013, the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress added it for long-term preservation.[111]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]