Friday, June 28, 2013

Jonathan Edwards -- "Sunshine" (1972)

He can't even run his own life
I'll be damned if he'll run mine!

And the winner is . . . Jonathan Edwards!

If you missed the previous 2 or 3 lines, it featured America's "Sister Golden Hair," which has second-most unconvincing use of the word "damn" in a pop song.  The song that beat it out for the top spot is Jonathan Edwards' 1972 hit single, "Sunshine."

The singer of "Sunshine" is mad as hell, and he's not going to take it any more!

What it is that's making him mad ain't exactly clear.  But it was 1971, so we can make a pretty good guess.

"It was just at the time of the Vietnam War and Nixon," Edwards later recalled.  "It was looking bad out there."

"The song meant a lot to a lot of people during that time -- especially me!" he went on to say.  I'll be damned if it meant anything to me.  

"Sunshine" talks a good game, which is a trait it shares with a lot of songs of the same vintage (not to mention a lot of people who came of age around that time).

Here are a few more lines from "Sunshine":

Working starts to make me wonder where
The fruits of what I do are going
He says in love and war all is fair
But he's got cards he ain't showing

None of that really means doodly squat, does it?  It sounds kind of tough and rebellious, but sounding tough and rebellious doesn't make you tough and rebellious.

Jonathan Edwards today
Jonathan Edwards is about as convincing a rebel as I was.  (The closest I came was a picture from my senior year of charge, when my hair was at its longest and my Fu Manchu mustache was at its Fu Manchuiest.  A female friend of mine saw it several years later -- after I had cleaned up my act a bit -- and told me that I looked "dangerous" in the photo.  You have no idea how happy that made me.)

"Sunshine" is purportedly a song that's all about getting lazy, intoxicated, and/or stoned college kids (which was about 98.6% of the college population in 1972) off their asses and into the streets.  "I'll be DAMNED if I'm going to get in line because some guy who's trying to run my life tell me to do so," Edwards is saying.  To which the rest of the world replies, "Spare me!"

After initially breaking out on a Boston radio station (figures, doesn't it?) "Sunshine" became a national hit, making it all the way to #4 on the Billboard pop singles chart.

The song only got released because a recording engineer screwed up.  Edwards wasn't planning to include "Sunshine" on his eponymous debut album until the engineer accidentally erased another track that was intended to go on that album.  Edwards plugged the hole by inserting "Sunshine."  (It's better to be lucky than good.)

"Sunshine" was by far the biggest hit Edwards ever recorded, but his subsequent lack of success wasn't from lack of effort.  He released six more albums in the 1970s alone, and has recorded a total of 16 albums (the most recent of which was released in 2011) -- including a children's album, a bluegrass album (with the Seldom Scene), a country album, and an album titled "Cruising America's Waterways," which got its title from a PBS series that Edwards narrated and performed in.  I'll be damned if I know why -- I can't imagine that any of them are still selling worth a . . . (You can fill in the blank.)
Here's a live performance of "Sunshine" by Edwards and the Seldom Scene:

Edwards has a pretty interesting life.  He was the lead in a touring production of the Broadway musical, Pumpboys and Dinettes, and appeared in the 2008 film, The Golden Boys, a period movie starring Mariel Hemingway, David Carradine, Bruce Dern, and the inimitable Rip Torn that was filmed on Cape Cod a few years ago.  

The Golden Boys cost an estimated $8 million to produce and grossed exactly $184,149 in the U.S.  I doubt that there will be a sequel.

Here's "Sunshine":

Click here to order the song from Amazon:

1 comment:

  1. Accounts of movies that didn't do well at the box office remind me of "Xanadu", starring Gene Kelly and Olivia Newton-John. At a concert one night, Ms. Newton-John is introducing a song, saying "The next song is from the movie "Xanadu". I'd like a show of hands, please, how many of have seen "Xanadu"? (pause to count hands) "Oh good! You're all here tonight!"