Bobby Hebb, whose 1966 hit “Sunny” was a magnum opus of the era’s sunshine pop, died in Nashville, Tenn., on Aug. 3 of cancer. He was 72.
According to a bio in the R&B compilation “Night Train to Nashville,” Hebb was raised in a musical family, and he performed as a child with his brother Harold at Nashville’s Bijou Theater. Spotted by Roy Acuff, he played miscellaneous instruments in the country star’s band in the early ’50s.
After Harold Hebb, a former member of the vocal group the Marigolds, was fatally knifed outside a Music City club on Nov. 23, 1963 — the day after John F. Kennedy’s assassination — his younger sibling was moved to write his best-known song.
Recorded with producer Jerry Ross and arranger Joe Renzotti in New York, “Sunny” became a No. 2 pop hit on the Philips label in summer 1966. The blissful tune was covered by dozens of artists, including Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett and Jose Feliciano.
Hebb’s follow-up singles failed to click. He remained active locally in Nashville into the new millennium, operating his label and publishing firm Hebb Cats.
Survivors include a daughter and four sisters.