First released by Mieko Hirota (1965).
Also recorded by Dave Pike (1966), Chris Montez (1966), Marvin Gaye (1966).
Hit versions by Bobby Hebb (US #2/R&B #3/UK #12 1966), Boney M. (UK #3/NETH #1/GER #1 1976).
From the wiki: “Bobby Hebb’s breakthrough as a songwriter would be born of tragedy. In November 1963, already upset over the JFK assassination, Bobby then learned that his older brother, Harold, had been stabbed to death the same night in a fight outside a Nashville nightclub. Out of his depression, Hebb began to write. Using past hurts (‘Yesterday my life was filled with rain’) and inspired by the anonymous smile of a complete stranger (‘You smiled and it really, really eased the pain’), ‘Sunny’ came into being.
“The upbeat number was included in Hebb’s nightclub act at his gig at the New York club Brandy’s. The audiences responded positively as did record producer Jerry Ross (‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me‘), who included the song on a publisher’s demo record that found its way to Japan.
“That was how ‘Sunny’ came about to be first recorded and commercially-released in Japan – not the US – by Mieko ‘Miko’ Hirota, the ‘Connie Francis of Japan’, where it was said to have done well on the charts.
“Hirota had grown up listening to pop and jazz in places like Tachikawa, one of the larger post-Occupation US military bases in Japan. She made her singing debut in 1961 at age 14. In 1965, Miko became the first Japanese singer to appear at the Newport Jazz Festival and, later that year, made the first recording of ‘Sunny’ in Tokyo.
“‘Sunny’ would, soon after, also be recorded by vibraphonist Dave Pike for his instrumental album Jazz for the Jet Set. Vocal cover versions in 1966 were released by Chris Montez (‘The More I See You‘, ‘Call Me‘), and Marvin Gaye – all without any apparent chart success.
“Finally, in the summer of 1966, Bobby Hebb’s own version of ‘Sunny’ was released as a single. It took off immediately, being played on AM music stations all across the country. It rose to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and then went on to become a world-wide hit. So popular was the song that it led to Bobby being chosen to open for The Beatles during their final tour of the US in 1966.
“‘Sunny’ would see a chart revival in 1976, at least in Europe, when covered by the Euro-Caribbean band, Boney M.”
Dave Pike, “Sunny” (1966):
Chris Montez, “Sunny” (1966):
Marvin Gaye, “Sunny” (1966):
Bobby Hebb, “Sunny” (1966):
Boney M., “Sunny” (1976):