“Sunny” was written by Bobby Hebb in 1963 and it is one of the most performed and recorded popular songs.
Robert Von “Bobby” Hebb (1938 ‒ 2010) was an American Rhythm and Blues /soul singer, musician, songwriter, and performer, whose parents were both blind musicians.
Bobby and his older brother Harold performed as a song-and-dance duo in Nashville, beginning when Bobby was three and Harold was nine.
His hit titled “Sunny” was written in the 48 hours following a double tragedy: U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s assassination (22 November 1963) and his brother Harold’s fatal stabbing outside a Nashville nightclub on the following day.
Those two events devastated him, and he wrote the song both as a tribute to his brother and in order to think of happier times, to express his preference for a “sunny” disposition to depression and pessimism, trying to achieve balance and hope for a brighter future.
Frank Sinatra, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, and hundreds of other artists have covered this song. Cher recorded it in 1966 as a tribute to her then husband, Sonny Bono.
With its haunting melody, and determination to look on the positive side of things, despite the grief that inspired it, “Sunny” captured the spirit of its time. If only implicitly, it gave voice to the feelings of millions of Americans who hoped for an end to the war in Vietnam and for the arrival of freedom and equality, even though Hebb refrained from politicizing the song’s significance.
Hebb expresses gratitude for his encounter with Sunny and sees their meeting as a sign that his dark days, and, presumably, those of the nation, are behind him. He even goes so far as to say that he feels ten feet tall. This is an uplifting love that brings comfort through the pain, and the song could be dedicated to a woman, a man, a parent, a child, a lover, a friend, to a lost brother or an admired president. It could even be about God, as some have speculated.
“Sunny” can be considered a song about hope and resilience