This bright, heartwarming song will remind your kids how much you love them.


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 Are My Sunshine" is popularly known as the state song of Louisiana, but the song has a murky history. It was made popular by Jimmie Davis, a country music singer who used it frequently in his campaign for governor of Louisiana, and it has long been claimed that he and his friend and fellow songwriter Charlie Mitchell wrote the song in 1939.

In Georgia, however, the children of mandolin player and songwriter Oliver Hood insist that their father penned the song on the back of a brown paper bag and performed it at a VFW convention in LaGrange, Georgia, in 1933. Hood regularly played with fellow musicians Riley Puckett and Paul Rice, and many people claim to have heard Puckett perform the piece in the early 1930s. There were supposedly more than 20 verses to the song, but the most popular ones are all that remain. After the original, best-known verse, the song continues:

The other night dear,

As I lay sleeping

I dreamed I held you in my arms.

When I awoke, dear,

I was mistaken

And I hung my head and cried

I'll always love you

And make you happy

If you will only say the same

But if you leave me

To love another

You'll regret it all some day

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 my dreams

Unfortunately, Hood never copyrighted his song, and in 1937 Paul Rice claimed authorship. Rice sold the rights to the song to Charlie Mitchell and Jimmie Davis in late 1939, and Davis recorded the song on February 5, 1940. His version included the lines that catapulted him to the governor's seat and made the song a Louisiana legend, as he sang it at rallies and even performed it on horseback (his horse was aptly named Sunshine):

Louisiana, my Louisiana

the place where I was borne.

White fields of cotton

green fields clover,

the best fishing

and long tall corn

The authorship of the piece may always be in dispute, but the song's lyrics are now known by children across the nation -- despite the less-than-sunny picture it paints after the first upbeat verse. "You Are My Sunshine" received renewed attention when it was featured prominently on the popular Grammy Award-winning soundtrack to the 2000 movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? The song is typical of what is now called traditional country music, with its predictable rhyming patterns, a repeating chorus, and a hit-and-miss meter that requires words to be dragged out over several notes.

Copyright © 2012 Meredith Corporation.

Related Features: