Monday, August 12, 2013


I was playing this last week, as you do when the season comes around, and out of curiosity happened to look it and Bobby Hebb up. I'd never thought of it as any more than a sweet soul/pop song, the kind of thing that crops up on 60s summer compilations (that's where I have it): I had no idea it had such dark origins or was rooted in any kind of tragedy.

Turns out that like another lovely 60s pop song, The Beach Boys 'Warmth Of The Sun', it was written in the dark aftermath of President JFK's assassination on November 22nd 1963; worse still for Bobby Hebb personally, in the shadow of his brother's death in a knife fight outside a Nashville nightclub, just a day later on November 23rd.

Hal Hebb had been something of a mentor to his kid brother, and a singer himself with doo-woppers The Marigolds, who had a Top Ten U.S R&B hit in 1955 with “Rollin’ Stone” (Hal sings tenor).

Bobby told the story of how he came to write 'Sunny' in a TV interview with US TV host Joe Viglione in August 1995...

“I find it more psychological the way I was thinking…it’s your disposition…you need a lift, an up, that’s all. Sometimes everyone needs an up. So “Sunny”, to me, is that disposition, you need a Sunny disposition to get away from whatever, just as I said before, “amuse me”, “make me forget what I just saw man”, “I don’t wanna know, I know I have to know, but I don’t know how to deal with it right now. I will deal with it, I’m not running away from this.  I just need a break.

So this was the idea behind “Sunny” – (it) was (to) give me a brighter idea so that my emotions will not be as disturbed as they are. I need a calmer feeling so that I can balance myself and adjust and then continue forward, onward.”

Bobby died in 2010 - on August 3rd. So it turns out I was playing his song and reading about all this just a few days after the anniversary of his passing...

Bobby Hebb - 'Sunny' (1966)


  1. who'd've thought it. i guess i always thought of it as a brill building songwriter oh you know kind of song. not that those don't come with weight and depth and backstory and all. i shall never hear it quite the same again. in a good way.
    ta dearie

  2. I always thought this was a song of depth, something in the vocals, the way the melody works. You can hear it in this version and Marvin's lovely version too. But I always thought the words were strangely lightweight against it all. Never knew. It's practically a (positive) protest song, and now with that added level of melancholy feeling underneath it all. Lovely work sir.

  3. Good piece Mr H, a brilliant record. I love the Marvin Gaye version as well, however Dusty's version is rank.

  4. btw - I was always under the impression that the story was apochryphal, glad to find out that it indeed true.

  5. Is it also true that 'Strange Fruit' is really about bananas?

  6. Thanks for sharing davy.

    To my mind ...
    There is little anyone can say that will ever hold the weight in expressing gratitude, friendship and heartfelt love for the ones we have lost.
    The support, kindness, selflessness, and understanding people give is simply above and beyond. No man could wish for more.

    Those who never crossed the street to the other side. Those who helped hold us up when we were about to crumble. The emptiness, the void, the pain, and desperation have been shared by all of us. We have an indestructible bond.
    It's the strength, loyalty and caring that stops us from feeling like a cork bobbing up and down in the ocean.

    Darkness and light are so important. I'm certainly more aware of them than ever before. Sunshine for us all.

    Hope you are tip top by the way, our kid.

  7. Makes this all the more special -


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