My mother's favorite two songs were: What A Friend We Have In Jesus and You Are My Sunshine. I always wondered where the second song came from. Today I had my mom on my mind and thought I would do a little web surfing and see what the history of the song might be. The story I found was very touching. "You Are My Sunshine" is a popular song written by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell and first recorded in 1939. It has been declared one of the state songs of Louisiana as a result of its association with former state governor and country music singer Jimmie Davis. According to a 1990 article by Theodore Pappas, the original song was written by Oliver Hood. The song has been covered numerous times — so often, in fact, that it is "one of the most commercially programmed numbers in American popular music." The song, originally country music, has "virtually lost" its original country music identity, and "represent[s] both the national flowering of country music and its eventual absorption into the mainstream of American popular culture.” In 1941, it was covered by Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, Mississippi John Hurt and Lawrence Welk. In subsequent years, it was covered by Ike and Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash, Brian Wilson, Jamey Johnson, and Andy Williams, amongst many others.
The 1940 version by Davis has been added to the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress on March 21, 2013 for long-term preservation.
When tornado sirens rang out in Moore, Okla., teachers at the Agape Land Learning Center rushed their 15 students into the bathrooms — the safest place in their brick building. To protect their charges, the adults draped them in a protective covering; to keep them from panicking, they sang songs through the storm.
This was reported by the New York Times, they led the children in a round of “You Are My Sunshine,” which might seem gently ironic — or perhaps even subtly defiant — given the dangerous weather all around them. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,” they sang. “You make me happy when skies are gray.”
Everybody knows the song. You know it. I know it. The kids in Oklahoma know it. So does everyone who reads about the Oklahoma tornadoes. “You Are My Sunshine” is so deeply embedded in the popular culture that most people can’t even remember when they first heard it. They’ve simply lived with it from the time they developed a memory. I can fondly recall my Grandmother Love singing it to me when I was 3 or 4 and I would fall asleep in her giant four-poster bed. I sang along with her, so it can’t have been my first exposure to the tune. Or perhaps I simply picked up the words and the melody as she sang them to me. It’s a remarkably simple tune, especially when you excise the verses and focus exclusively on the chorus — as almost everybody does.
Until the day my mom died it was always our parting song when I left her at the nursing home. She would hug me and ask me to sing her song. I would sing it to her and until Alzheimer's took her from me would sing it along with me. I knew her time was short when she would just close her eyes and smile. She was seeing my daddy in her mind and waiting to join Her Special Sunshine.