It is the center of our universe – a necessity of life. Without it, we would not exist. No wonder so many artists compose songs about it. Ahhh… sunshine.
The sun is the subject of many songs across many musical genres. Country singers, pop stars, and rock and rollers have been inspired by the sun. Whether sunshine uplifts the spirit, or the sun feels cold from a broken heart, these songs embody the star around which our world revolves.
Here is a list of the best songs about sunshine to warm your soul.
Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles
The majority of the Beatles’ songs were written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. ‘Here Comes the Sun’ was George Harrison’s contribution to 1969’s Abbey Road album.
Harrison wrote the song while visiting his friend, Eric Clapton. Winters are long and dreary in England, so spring is a welcome sign. Harrison walked around the garden with one of Clapton’s acoustic guitars, feeling the warm sunshine, and wrote the hit song.
The lyrics are quite simple, with a catchy ‘doo-doo-doo-doo’ to help uplift the spirits. Sunshine has a way of putting a smile back on people’s faces after a long, cold, lonely winter.
Sunshine of Your Love – Cream
“‘Sunshine of Your Love’ was the biggest hit recorded by British rock band Cream. It was released on their 1967 album, Disraeli Gears, and became one of Rock’s greatest songs of all time.
Bassist and vocalist Jack Bruce wrote the bass riff for the song after seeing Jimi Hendrix in concert. Cream took a decidedly psychedelic turn after that experience. Bandmates Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker picked up on the riff and the result was a song that would become the highest charting American single for the band.
‘Sunshine of Your Love’ compares the warmth of sunshine to the love of a woman. The sun also measures the passing of time, the singer eagerly looking forward to dawn when he will see his love again.
Sunshine On My Shoulders – John Denver
John Denver’s feel-good ode to the sun, ‘Sunshine On My Shoulders’ was written on a cold winter day in the northern United States. It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974.
Denver captures the very essence of sunshine in his lyrics. The sun can make you feel warm and euphoric while making your surroundings all the more beautiful.
You Are the Sunshine of My Life – Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder’s ‘You Are the Sunshine of My Life’ was recorded in 1972 and released on his album, Talking Book, the following year. It was Wonder’s third number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100.
Wonder compares the love of a woman to the sunshine needed to live, which is why he will ‘always stay around’. The power of love is compared to the vitality of the sun – without it there is only loneliness and tears.
Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers
As a child, Bill Withers overcame a severe stutter to become a best-selling R&B recording artist. His song, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine,’ recorded in 1971, would reach number three on the Billboard Hot 100.
Withers was 31 years old, working in a factory that manufactured airplane bathrooms when his song hit the charts. It would be the start of a new career.
The song conveys the feeling that there is no sunshine when your love is gone, only emptiness and darkness. Sunshine is love, the very thing we need to survive.
Seasons in the Sun – Terry Jacks
Canadian artist Terry Jacks recorded his version of ‘Seasons in the Sun’ in 1973. It was originally a song titled ‘Le Moribund’ by Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Berl. The song would also become a number one hit for the Irish boy band Westlife in 1999.
Jacks was inspired to record the song for a friend suffering from leukemia. It tells the story of a dying man saying goodbye to his loved ones. The sun is a symbol of passing time, the one constant through the changing of the seasons.
Good Day Sunshine – The Beatles
Another Beatles song featuring the sun is ‘Good Day Sunshine’ from their 1966 album Revolver.
Paul McCartney was inspired one sunny day, wanting to write a song similar to the Lovin’ Spoonful’s hit ‘Daydream’. ‘Good Day Sunshine’ was used to wake up the astronauts on a Space Shuttle mission and was featured as part of the first concert link-up to the International Space Station in 2005.
The lyrics to the song perfectly reflect the feeling of being in love. There is no greater sensation, especially on a sunny day.
Sunshine Superman – Donovan
Sunshine Superman was an album recorded by British singer-songwriter Donovan in 1966. The title track would reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
The iconic song featured session players Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin fame. ‘Sunshine Superman’ was a blend of psychedelic rock and folk rock, an innovative sound at the time.
The lyrics were inspired by a girlfriend breaking off their relationship. ‘Sunshine’ is the first word of the song and the only time it appears. It is a song of reflection, remembering the good times they had. Considering the era, there is also a theory that ‘sunshine’ is a nickname for LSD. It was a trippy time to be making music.
You Are My Sunshine – Johnny Cash
‘You Are My Sunshine’ is a song recorded by more than 350 artists and translated into 30 languages. One of the most memorable versions is by the country legend Johnny Cash.
Previously recorded in 1939 by the Pine Ridge Boys, it was copyrighted in 1940 by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell. Jimmie Davis would later become governor of Louisiana and ‘You Are My Sunshine’ became the state song in 1977.
Johnny Cash would include his rendition on his tenth release, Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. The song itself is simple in structure with just three verses. But the sentiment is clear: sunshine will make you happy when skies are gray.
Walking On Sunshine – Katrina and the Waves
A pop song that is upbeat and full of warm vibes is the 1985 release, ‘Walking On Sunshine’ by Katrina and the Waves. The single would go platinum in the UK.
The song has been popular in the business world, becoming one of EMI’s highest earners from advertisements. Royalties from the song have been shared equally among band members.
‘Walking On Sunshine’ is about being in love with someone who you can’t wait to see, can’t wait to spend time with, and can’t live your life without. It is a common theme to compare the sun’s warmth with the warm feeling you get when in love.
Sunshine Song – Jason Mraz
Jason Mraz is a guitarist and singer-songwriter who started playing in coffee houses in San Diego. His freelancing vocal style earned him a local following. Mraz’s first major-label release would go platinum.
‘The Sunshine Song’ appears on the album Jason Mraz’s Beautiful Mess: Live on Earth released in 2009. It is a song that explores the feeling of sunshine in everyone else’s life but yours. But when you have someone in your life full of sunshine, you can ask to share some of their light.
Island In The Sun – Weezer
‘Island in the Sun’ is a song by rock band Weezer from their second self-titled album. The song was produced by Ric Ocasek of The Cars in 2001.
Weezer formed in the early 90s out of Los Angeles, California. Their sound primarily falls into the alternative/pop-rock genre. ‘Island in the Sun’ leaned a little more mainstream pop, propelling the album to commercial success.
The song’s lyrics can be taken literally, having fun on an island in the sun. Runaway together, leave your cares behind, and ‘never feel bad anymore.’
Trip Around the Sun – Kenny Chesney
‘Trip Around the Sun’ was recorded by country singer Kenny Chesney for his album Cosmic Hallelujah in 2016. A different song with the same title was released in 2004 by Jimmy Buffet and Martina McBride.
Chesney’s version of ‘Trip Around the Sun’ is more cosmic. It is a literal reference to a calendar year and the Earth’s rotation around the sun. It’s all about having fun, a beer with friends, and enjoying the crazy ride on this rock we’re on.
Brighter Than the Sun – Colbie Caillat
Folk-pop artist Colbie Caillat rose to fame using the social networking website MySpace, a platform many emerging artists employed. ‘Brighter Than the Sun’ was the second single released off her 2011 album, All of You.
Using the sun as a symbol of love, Caillat is overwhelmed by her feelings. Her lyrics are light and uplifting, a love song that truly embodies the brightness of human emotion.
Black Hole Sun – Soundgarden
Soundgarden, alongside Nirvana and Pearl Jam, was responsible for the rise of grunge in the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s. From their 1994 album Superunknown, Soundgarden would earn a Grammy Award for the single, ‘Black Hole Sun’.
‘Black Hole Sun’ is not a song with your typical warm sun imagery. It is more about the darkness. Instead of the sun providing life-giving energy, the songwriter calls for a black hole sun to swallow everything up.
Invisible Sun – The Police
‘Invisible Sun’ is a song from English rock band The Police’s 1981 release, Ghost in the Machine. It is a darker song than the pop-reggae sound The Police were known for.
Despite the song being written about the hunger strikes in Belfast at the time, it has an uplifting message of hope. Songwriter Sting has stated that the invisible sun represents the light at the end of the tunnel.
The optimism within the lyrics of ‘Invisible Sun’ shines through by first painting the dark imagery of conflict and war. Even though you may not see it, the sun still ‘gives heat to everyone.’
Walkin’ On The Sun – Smash Mouth
Formed in San Diego in 1994, Smash Mouth is a band that has experimented with several different sounds, including alt-rock, ska-punk, power pop, and new wave.
‘Walkin’ on the Sun’ was the debut single from their first album, Fush Yu Mang, released in 1997. It reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100.
The song was inspired by the Rodney King beating at the hands of the LAPD and the ensuing riots. Smash Mouth guitarist Greg Camp penned the lyrics responding to the madness and a sense of ‘can’t we all just get along?’ – Without peace, we all ‘might as well be walkin’ on the sun.’
Soak Up the Sun – Sheryl Crow
‘Soak Up the Sun’ was the lead single from Sheryl Crow’s fourth studio album, C’mon, C’mon. Released in 2002, it was important to Crow to record a song that would uplift people following 9/11.
In the song, Crow laments not having ‘diddly squat’, no money, none of the finer things in life. But instead of wallowing in self-pity, her response is to ‘Soak Up the Sun’, look at the positives in life, and spread happiness to others. That is the power of sunshine.
She’s Only Happy in the Sun – Ben Harper
Ben Harper is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Pomona, California. ‘She’s Only Happy in the Sun’ is from his Diamonds On the Inside blues-rock album released in 2003.
You can interpret the song in many different ways. ‘She’s Only Happy in the Sun’ seems to imply an unreciprocated love, the singer being unable to provide what his love interest needs or desires. She is only happy when everything is sunny and perfect. Or is she only happy when she is high?
Who Loves the Sun – Velvet Underground
‘Who Loves the Sun’ is a song by The Velvet Underground released on the album Loaded in 1970. Known for its avant-garde experimental rock, the Velvet Underground seemed to parody The Beatles’ ‘Here Comes the Sun’ with their interpretation of love and sunshine.
The sun in this song is looked upon in disdain, a tongue-in-cheek response to the ballads comparing love to sunshine. Although the music is melodic and upbeat, the message is clear: who cares about the sun when you have a broken heart?
Pocketful of Sunshine – Natasha Bedingfield
Natasha Bedingfield is a British-born pop star, known for her up-tempo songs. She has sold over 20 million records worldwide.
Her song ‘Pocketful of Sunshine’ was released in 2007 on her album N.B. It is a song relating sunshine to love, the more love you have the more powerful you feel. The sun is on your side, and all you have to do is look up to feel good inside.
Cold Day in the Sun – Foo Fighters
Released in 2005 on their album In Your Honor, the Foo Fighters’, ‘Cold Day in the Sun’ was also issued as a double-A side single with ‘No Way Out’.
‘Cold Day in the Sun’ was written by drummer Taylor Hawkins and would become the first song where he was featured on lead vocals while frontman Dave Grohl played drums. Later, the acoustic elements were electrified in live performances with Hawkins singing behind the kit.
The lyrics speak to a person who is perhaps a little bit too into themselves, and it is time they are cut loose to face the world on their own. This harsh realization is compared to a ‘Cold Day in the Sun’.
Blister in the Sun – Violent Femmes
The Violent Femmes is a punk-folk band out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Their self-titled debut in 1983 featured one of their most popular songs, ‘Blister in the Sun’. The song was featured on the soundtrack for the movie ‘Grosse Pointe Blank.’
Not all songs about the sun are necessarily light and uplifting. A ‘Blister in the Sun’ is that of an open sore, like a wound from a failed relationship. The lyrics conjure up the strung-out feeling related to drug abuse, intended to contrast the love songs full of sunshine.
Greatest Songs About Sunshine
Some of the greatest songs in the history of music revolve around the sun. Across every genre of music, from the soulful R&B classic ‘Ain’t No Sunshine,’ to the ska-punk beat of ‘Walkin’ On the Sun’, to the joyful sunny vibes of ‘Walking on Sunshine,’ there are many takes on the symbolism of the sun.
Some songs are bright and warm. Others are darker, conjuring up images of a world without sunshine. Some artists evoke the sun as a symbol of love, a necessity of life. Sometimes the sun appears cold, like when you suffer from a broken heart.
As long as the sun shines, music will be written about it.