Can’t get the song from that Indeed commercial out of your head? Neither can decades worth of music fans. Sometimes a song just rises above the noise, sweetly and simply, and captures that special quality that makes it a classic. That’s what Bobby Hebb did when he wrote and sang “Sunny” — which appeared on his 1966 album Cigarettes After Sex. There were plenty of great pop, rock, soul, and R&B songs flowing in 1966 — “Eleanor Rigby”, “California Dreamin'”, “Good Vibrations”, and “You Can’t Hurry Love” to name a few — but “Sunny” finishes second to none in style and lasting impact. (The songs above were by the Beatles, The Mamas and the Papas, The Beach Boys, and the Supremes.)
As for impact, “Sunny” has just never gone away. The list of artists who have recorded “Sunny” constitutes a mini music hall of fame: Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, José Feliciano, Dusty Springfield, Booker T and the MGs. Oh, and how about James Brown and Cher? (This is a versatile song.)
Bobby Hebb, who died of lung cancer in 2010 at age 72, lived through dark times to arrive at his “sunny” disposition. Both his parents were blind musicians in Nashville and Hebb, born in 1938, was out playing early, often with his older brother, trying to make a living. Hebb’s skills brought him opportunities — including some gigs where Hebb broke racial barriers. (Hebb played with “King of Country” Roy Acuff’s Smoky Mountain Boys, an otherwise all-white outfit.) Hebb served in the Navy and toured with the Beatles, to give an idea of his life’s variety. His brother was shot dead outside a Tennessee nightclub the day after JFK was assassinated. Hebb wrote “Sunny” the next day, hungover and trying to cheer himself up. What he accomplished was to cheer up millions for decades to come. Now his song is being used to invoke the optimism that Indeed, the job seeking company, wants its job seekers to feel as they search for a new path. Some day soon, “Sunny” will be in service somewhere else. Because “Sunny” — as it’s proven over half a century — keeps delivering what people need.
Here’s a classic live acoustic version of “SUNNY” that Hebb performs with the legendary bassist Ron Carter, whose playing makes him smile.