John Denver’s ‘Sunshine On My Shoulders’ : Songs Of Remembrance : NPR

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Courtesy of Marissa Yingling

Dream Ellen Slack-Young

Courtesy of Marissa Yingling

More than 500,000 folks have died within the U.S. from COVID-19 because the pandemic hit this nation and the world simply over a yr in the past. NPR is remembering a few of those that misplaced their lives by listening to the music they beloved and listening to their tales. We’re calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.

Since she fell in love with it within the Nineteen Seventies, John Denver’s “Sunshine On My Shoulders” was certainly one of a handful of cheerful, heartfelt songs Gran continuously sang to family members. The ’70s had been an particularly tumultuous interval for her; certainly one of important loss that had a profound influence on her life. This track was a present. Though she by no means mentioned it, I imagine the lyrics reminded her to understand life’s small joys. She selected to be thankful for one thing so simple as the sunshine “on my shoulders” or “in my eyes” or “on the water,” and she or he invited the folks she beloved to do the identical. For her, I imagine the sunshine of which Denver sings is a metaphor for the small joys she cherished: studying books to her granddaughters, snowboarding together with her son, dancing together with her husband, sharing a meal with buddies. For the remainder of her life, she listened to John Denver. A coal miner’s daughter born and raised “up Cabin Creek,” she additionally treasured Denver’s track about her beloved West Virginia, the place she skilled her many sunshines.

Gran sang this track to me on quite a few events: whereas planting flowers within the spring; consuming Ellen’s ice cream on Capitol Street; using bikes on a Saturday afternoon. Beyond nostalgia, once I hear this track, I can image the hours and days we shared, and I really feel near her. Also, merely the phrase “sunshine” makes me consider her. As I wrote in her obituary: “Our grandmother was sunshine. If you had the pleasure of knowing her, you know that she was a vibrant, generous woman full of life, smiles, and unconditional love. A humble person who wisely valued the ‘precious present.'” Regardless of life’s trials, she seized each alternative for happiness, continuously whistling and singing her favourite songs. Perhaps you heard her sing, “Have I told you lately that I love you?” … “You are my sunshine” … “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy” … “The sun will come out tomorrow.” Now, the track makes me consider the reward of being by her facet throughout her closing week, after we had not been permitted to the touch for almost one yr due to the pandemic. The first night we spent together with her, she requested to hearken to music. When we performed Denver’s track, she swayed her hand to the melody and joyfully sang the phrases “makes me happy.” Despite feeling badly, she knew little time remained and she or he selected to take pleasure in it. She repeatedly advised us “I’m so lucky,” “I’m so fortunate,” and “I couldn’t have been happier in my life.” When I hear “Sunshine On My Shoulders” or sing it to the great-granddaughter she couldn’t meet due to COVID-19, I consider my Gran and smile, for she was my sunshine with whom I shared numerous small joys, and I’m grateful we had every certainly one of them. —Marissa Yingling, granddaughter

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