Friday, November 26, 2010

Bobby Hebb and "Sunny"

Hi kids,
       As you might know by now, if you follow the blog, is that I love analyzing songs that have multiple versions. This next tune under my lens is a R&B/Soul classic called "Sunny." "Sunny" was written by Bobby Hebb in 1963, after the Kennedy Assassination and the murder of Bobby's brother outside of a Nashville nightclub. Hebb wrote the song to highlight optimism instead of pessimism that was widely felt at that time in American history. The first release of the tune was actually by Japanese singer Miko Hirota.

Hirota's version, unlike future releases, doesn't modulate through keys and some verses are omitted, slightly changing the story line of the song.

The next version released was by marimba player Dave Pike in 1966. Pike release his instrumental version shortly before Hebb released his version, in 1966. At the time, Hebb was touring with the Beatles.

This version also doesn't modulate through keys like Hebbs does. Notice the very distinct key changes that occur throughout the Bobby Hebb version of the song:

This sparked a plethora of cover versions from some of the most respected names in music.
This cut by Marvin Gaye starts in the key of F minor. The original is in E minor:

Stevie Wonder cut his own version of it, in the original key. The remarkable thing about this version is the great orchestration and variations of the vocal melody:

Ella Fitzgerald, Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield and Jamiroquai have all performed stellar versions of "Sunny:"

Now, my two favorite versions are by two great musicians. First we have the album version of the great Philly guitarist Pat Martino. The album is "Pat Martino/Live" with he recorded in New York with Ron Thomas (keys), Tyrone Brown (bass) and Sherman Ferguson (drums). This combo kills it:

Being the Godfather of Soul, James Brown has also performed "Sunny." This clip is from Paris in the 70's with the J.B.'s as his backing band:

Now, My ALL TIME favorite version of this tune is a live video of Pat Martino with organist Joey Defrancesco at the 2002 Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy. The band invites John Scofield to join them on this tune. Unfortunately, Sco looks lost, and his solo is very weak in comparison. He seems to be feeling his way through the changes and doesn't give the listener any confidence. Joey D and Pat on the other hand. Pat Martino MURDERS the solo! He shreds this jam to bits! Watch:

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