Have a listen:
Hearing Cash's version of the song opened my eyes (or ears, I suppose) to the fact that so much of what touches us musically comes from the performer's delivery. Sometimes, it's the natural beauty of a singer's voice - I find that I'm moved by pretty much anything sung by Josh Groban, although I wouldn't consider myself a fan, per se...just an appreciative observer.
Sometimes, it's the unique quality in a singer's voice that touches us. I think this is part of Johnny Cash's appeal. Listening to his recordings, especially those later in his career, I feel like I'm listening to a troubled cowboy Grandpa, and this makes me feel comfortable and intrigued all at once.
Sometimes, it's a person's passion coming alive through an instrument. Whenever I listen to Yo-Yo Ma I hear this. I feel like every emotion he's ever felt is being transmitted through his cello and out to the world, and my ears, to hear. I feel connected with him, although I've never met him. I feel comforted and supported in my own emotions as I realize I'm not alone in what I'm feeling. I feel connected to the world around me as I know others are listening to the same music and feeling the same emotions. Of course, much of this comes from the beautifully composed music, but what is beautifully composed music without a musician to interpret it perfectly.
This brings me back to "You Are My Sunshine." Clearly, this is a well composed song that has stood the test of time. I always say to people that it's one of the only songs that spans the generations. From toddlers to seniors, almost everyone knows the words...at least to the chorus. And I think part of the reason for its staying power is its simultaneous simplicity and complexity. The song has simple words and a basic, pleasing melody. It comes across initially as a happy song - about sunshine, happiness, and love set in a major key. But under the happy facade is a deep sadness about missing a loved one and the breathtaking sorrow that we feel when we miss someone.
I found another version of the song on You Tube. The performer, Milindra Kulugammana, altered the chorus - typically the happiest part of the song - to include mostly minor chords. His sweet, raspy voice and slow, tender delivery make the words of the song even more meaningful.
Here it is:
Mesmerizing. Sad. Thoughtful. While this version may not appeal to everyone (as Kulugammana states in his intro, appologizing to the "traditionalists"), I appreciate how it made me listen to each word of the song from a different point of view. Sometimes life isn't all roses and butterflies, and this is important for ME to remember as a Music Therapist. Even happy sounding songs may carry heavy or even dark memories for some individuals, and I can never assume that everyone is hearing the same thing as me.
While life may not be all roses and butterflies, it isn't all storm clouds and tears either. So I offer you a final version of "You Are My Sunshine." This time, an example of the absurdity we sometimes need in life. Enjoy.
I'm dizzy...and need to get this song out of my head now.