you are my sunshine

Bad dreams. Robin L. Chandler Copyright 2016.

Bad dreams. Robin L. Chandler Copyright 2016.

September brings cooler nights and turning leaves. The fruit trees are bringing forth figs, pears and persimmons and our thoughts turn to the harvest holidays. Morning skies are gray and foggy and afternoons are blessed with golden sunshine from a southern exposure. A melancholy rests lightly on my shoulders, realizing we’ve nearly completed the ritual cycle round the solar system, another year gone, mourning lost loves, preciously cradling what we hold dear, the future a mystery.

Picking on the guitar, I start to sing You Are My Sunshine. Bob Dylan called it our best American Song, and he recorded in with his friend and fellow roots musician Johnny Cash in Nashville, Tennessee, 1969. I speculate Dylan’s high honor stems from the sprightly tune in a major key, strong contrasting imagery of bright sunshine/gray skies, happiness/tragedy, and because it touches a root deep in the American psyche: lost or unrequited love.

The song’s roots lay in Depression riddled Georgia, written and first performed in 1933 by Oliver Hood, a poem to lost love. A local bard, Hood’s authorship remained anonymous for many years, a man who loved music and making music every Sunday after church and dinner, sitting on his front porch with his friends and neighbors sharing songs and tunes. As Alan Lomax writes in The Folk Songs of North America  describing the white ballad singer of roots music “carefully tune [s] his voice…his latent emotions must be kept under control…his solo…an act of memory, almost ritualistic.” A sharer of songs, Hood was not concerned about copyright in the early years of his music writing. Governor Jimmie Davis, bought the rights from the Rice Brothers, who recorded the song in 1939 claiming authorship.

The other night dear, as I lay sleeping
I dreamed I held you in my arms
But when I awoke, dear, I was mistaken
So I hung my head and I cried.

 

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away

 

I’ll always love you and make you happy,
If you will only say the same.
But if you leave me and love another,
You’ll regret it all some day

 

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away

 

You told me once, dear, you really loved me
And no one else could come between.
But now you’ve left me and love another;
You have shattered all of my dreams

 

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away
In all my dreams, dear, you seem to leave me
When I awake my poor heart pains.
So when you come back and make me happy
I’ll forgive you dear, I’ll take all the blame.
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away

 

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