Song Spotlight: “Sunshine On My Shoulders”

Sunshine over sparse clouds on the ocean
  • Mood: Contemplative, Joy
  • Themes: Weather, Happiness
  • Tempo: Slow
  • Genre/Style: Country/Folk

Sunshine is necessary for the survival and well being of all living things. We as humans depend on the sun to make vitamin D and being out in the sunshine (with proper sun protection) can promote good mental health. John Denver’s song “Sunshine On My Shoulders” explores the wide array of ways that sunshine can impact us.

“Sunshine On My Shoulders” was written by John Denver, Dick Kniss, and Mike Taylor. This song was started by Denver in the midst of a grey wintery Minnesota day when it was too cold to venture outside. He wrote this song while missing the sunshine. He was aiming for a melancholy sound but ended up writing an ode to the sunshine.

The song was later used as the theme song for a made for television movie Sunshine, a story of a young mother dying from cancer, providing lyrical framing of the desire to give those we love precious moments together.

Denver’s composition creates a relaxing environment where you can just close your eyes and imagine the feeling of sunshine on your shoulders. The lyrics examine the various effects the sun has on us and always returning to state that sunshine has a way of bringing elation and and an uplifted feeling. During winter months we can relate to the feeling of missing the beautiful sunshine and upon its spring return we can celebrate. 

Here are some of the lyrics:

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy

Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry

Sunshine on the water looks so lovely

Sunshine almost always makes me high

This is a great song to use in a 1:1 setting or group and would go well with a collection of songs about weather, happiness, or wishes. It can be used as a transition into group discussion, an opportunity for musical engagementsongwriting, movement and more. 

Try This:

Theme This song would fit well into a collection of songs about weather, happiness or, wishes theme.  Other complementary songs may include “Rainy Days and Mondays,” “You are the Sunshine of my Life,” and “Rainbow Connection.”

Encourage the group to share things they love about the sunshine or favorite things to do on a sunny day.

Movement: Try out expressive movements that have gestures to match the lyrics or do gentle stretches along with the song.

 Show photos of the sun or go sit in the sun while listening to the song. 

Try your hand at songwriting and ask group participants to add where the sunshine lands and how it makes them feel into the song and give your version of the song a sing.

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