|Single by Bobby Hebb|
|from the album Sunny|
|Recorded||February 21, 1966|
|Studio||Bell Sound Studios, New York City|
|Bobby Hebb singles chronology|
|Single by Bobby Hebb|
|B-side||"Proud Soul Heritage"|
|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". It is also known by its first line: "Sunny, yesterday my life was filled with rain".
Background and composition
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.
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
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.
"Sunny '76'" is a disco take on Bobby Hebb's song. Like the original 1966 version, it features Hebb; however, an updated disco beat was implemented with an eye to having it played in discos around the world. This version was arranged by Joe Renzetti, who also arranged the original record.
The 7-inch single was released in late 1975. The B-side featured another song of Hebb's called "Proud Soul Heritage".
Cher recorded the song for her third solo album Chér, it was released as the third single in Europe and Asia, achieving success in numerous European countries. It is considered to be a tribute to her then husband, Sonny Bono.
Boney M. version
German euro disco group Boney M. recorded the song for their 1976 debut album, Take the Heat off Me, produced by Frank Farian and arranged by Stefan Klinkhammer in a euro disco arrangement. Following their breakthrough single "Daddy Cool", it topped the German charts and reached the top ten in many other countries.
The single was backed by a non-album track "New York City", a reworked version of Farian artist Gilla's 1976 hit single "Tu es!" and its English version "Why Don't You Do It", with an intro borrowed from the Boney M. album track "Help Help", issued only in some territories instead of "Baby Do You Wanna Bump" on "Take the Heat off Me".
The recording was remixed in 1988, 1999 (it was a minor hit single in early 2000) and 2015, and has been sampled by Boogie Pimps for their 2004 version. While Liz Mitchell sang the original lead vocals on Boney M.'s version, original member Maizie Williams recorded a solo version in 2006. The original version was featured in the Umbrella Academy Season 2 soundtrack.
The final single from Boney M.'s remix album 20th Century Hits which peaked at #80 in the Swiss charts. The CD single was released with 8 mixes. A "London Mix" was released on the promotional double-12" single.
Christophe Willem covered the song in 2006 (#3 in France, #9 in Belgium (Wallonia), #17 in Switzerland). Chilean singer Buddy Richard recorded a Spanish version of the song as "Cielo", using the same melody as the original by Hebb.