I heard the best-known version (to British audiences of a certain age anyway) of this song on the radio the other day. But it’s a song that most people just think of as the theme tune to a much-loved TV show back in the 1970s and 80s.
But “Bring Me Sunshine” didn’t start out as a TV theme.
It was written by a songwriting duo who had considerable success in the 1960s… not many hits, but the ones they had were real blockbusters…until the death of the team’s lyricist in 1967 put an untimely end to their collaboration.
The names Arthur Kent and Sylvia Dee sound like they belong to the winners of a ballroom dancing competition, rather than a songwriting duo…but writing songs was what they did.
Lyricist Sylvia Dee wrote the lyrics for Nat King Cole’s hit “Too Young”…a song Billboard magazine voted the number one song of 1951…Sydney Lippman wrote the music.
“Too Young” was also a big hit for Donny Osmond in the early 1970s.
In addition to working with him on “Bring Me Sunshine”, Sylvia Dee also collaborated with Arthur Kent on Skeeter Davis’s 1963 hit “End of the World”…a great song, if not exactly the most cheerful song you’re ever likely to hear…which reached number two on the Billboard Top 100.
For us Brits, at least, “Bring Me Sunshine” became extraordinarily well-known following its selection for one of the most-watched TV programmes in British television history where it played over the closing credits.
Written in 1966, the best known versions of “Bring Me Sunshine” have been recorded by Willie Nelson, Brenda Lee and Chet Atkins (the latter, by way of a quick bit of trivia, also having produced Sylvia Dee and Arthur Kent’s song “End of the World” for Skeeter Davis a few years earlier).
However Willie Nelson’s version from the 2009 album “Naked Willie”…I’m saying nothing…is my favourite version of the song.
It’s a typically great Willie Nelson performance. There is something about Willie Nelson’s voice…”lived in”, yet fresh somehow. And the world-weariness in his voice means he can deliver romantic lines and sentiments without becoming too saccharine, which is exactly what he does here.
As for the lyrics, there’s not a British person over 40 who won’t think of the most popular comedy duo of the 1970s when they hear the opening lines of this song…a duo who managed to get TV audiences of 20–25 million in a country with a population of only 50 million or so at the height of their popularity…an impressive feat that is unlikely to be beaten any time soon.
But this famous duo normally only sung the first verse of today’s song, then faded out to an instrumental…and dance routine…ah, yes the golden days of the TV variety show…
Both their version and Willie Nelson’s version miss out the lyric I especially like which starts the second verse of Sylvia Dee’s original lyrics.
Perhaps the producers thought it was a bit too girly for male comedy stars of the 1970s or grizzled veterans of the country outlaw movement. So, given that you’ve probably never heard it before, here is the “missing segment” of Sylvia Dee’s lyrics…
Bring me sunshine in your eye
Bring me a rainbow from the sky
Life’s too short to be spent having anything but fun
We can be so content if we gather little rainbows
Make me happy all day long
And I’ll keep singing my happy songs
I like that lyric for all sorts of reasons, but both the lyric and the song itself makes me think that having someone in your life with “sunshine in their eyes” must be a great blessing.
I hope you know someone who brings sunshine in their eyes, and indeed rainbows from the sky.
But for now, please enjoy this great performance of a very well-known song…if you’re a Brit, I give it two nano-seconds before you think of Morcambe and Wise…
Here’s Willie Nelson with “Bring Me Sunshine”…
The video is below or, if you prefer, you can enjoy the song on Spotify here… https://open.spotify.com/track/5EP0PBJNrUDGxmL5joY7Am
PS — just before we get to the video, if you enjoyed this article, please give it a “clap”…or even more than one if you’re feeling kind. You can also follow me on Medium (here) or Twitter (here) to get new articles as soon as they’re published.