Bobby Hebb (July 26, 1938 – August 3, 2010) was American R&B/soul singer, musician, songwriter, recording artist, and performer known for his 1966 hit entitled "Sunny".
He was born Robert Von Hebb in Nashville, Tennessee. Hebb's parents, William and Ovalla Hebb, were both blind musicians. Hebb and his older brother Harold performed as a song-and-dance team in Nashville, beginning when Bobby was three and Harold was nine. Hebb performed on a TV show hosted by country music record producer Owen Bradley, which earned him a place with Grand Ole Opry star Roy Acuff. Hebb played spoons and other instruments in Acuff's band. Harold later became a member of Johnny Bragg and the Marigolds. Bobby Hebb sang backup on Bo Diddley's "Diddley Daddy". Hebb played "West-coast-style" trumpet in a United States Navy jazz band, and replaced Mickey Baker in Mickey and Sylvia. ( At 13, Bobby Hebb (front) tap dancing with Chet Atkins (left), Erwin Tussey on sax, Grady Martin playing guitar and Tommy Jackson playing fiddle.)
On November 23, 1963, the day after John F. Kennedy's assassination, Harold Hebb was killed in a knife fight outside a Nashville nightclub. Hebb was devastated by both events and sought comfort in song writing. Though many claim that the song he wrote after both tragedies was the optimistic "Sunny", Hebb himself stated otherwise. He immersed himself in the Gerald Wilson album, You Better Believe It!, for comfort.
"All my intentions were just to think of happier times – basically looking for a brighter day – because times were at a low tide. After I wrote it, I thought "Sunny" just might be a different approach to what Johnny Bragg was talking about in "Just Walkin' in the Rain".
disc. When Hebb toured with The Beatles in 1966 his "Sunny" was as well received as any Beatles tune, as evidenced by tapes of the concerts. BMI rated "Sunny" number 25 in its "Top 100 songs of the century".
"Sunny" has been recorded by, among others jamiroquai, Cher, Boney M, Georgie Fame, Johnny Rivers, Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra with Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Electric Flag, The Four Seasons, Leonard Nimoy, two different versions from Frankie Valli, the Four Tops, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Les McCann, Wes Montgomery, Dusty Springfield, and Classics IV. One re-recording, a disco version called "Sunny '76" was a minor hit for Hebb in that year hitting #94 on the R&B chart. In 2000, Musiq did an updated dance version retitled "Just Friends (Sunny)," which went to #31 on the U.S. Billboard charts.
Hebb also had lesser hits with his "A Satisfied Mind" in 1966 (# 39 on the Billboard chart and #40 on the R&B chart) and "Love Me" in 1967 (# 84). He was a prolific writer, known in the US as the "song-a-day man", with over 1,000 compositions to his name. In 1971, Lou Rawls won a Grammy with "A Natural Man", a song Hebb had co-written with Sandy Baron.
Six years prior to "Sunny", Hebb reached the New York Top 50 with a remake of Roy Acuff's "Night Train To Memphis". In 1972, his single "Love Love Love" reached # 32 in the UK charts.
After a recording gap of thirty five years, Hebb recorded That's All I Wanna Know, his first commercial release since Love Games for Epic Records in 1970. It was released in Europe in late 2005 by Tuition, a pop indie label. New versions of "Sunny" were also issued (two duets: one with Astrid NorthAstrid North, and one with Pat Appleton.
In 2004, Hebb was part of another Grammy-winning team, as one of the performers included on the Best Historical Album, the compilation Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues, 1945-1970. ). In October 2008 he toured and played in Osaka and Tokyo in Japan.
"We're in the University of Life and last time I checked, no one is in a hurry to graduate," Hebb said in 2004. His only regret was that Ray Charles wasn't one of the 500-plus artists who have recorded "Sunny".