The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore — Oh Wait, Yes It Is

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For those of you lucky enough to be in the path of the total eclipse of the sun yesterday, you got to experience the eerie cosmic wonder of the sky going dark in the middle of the day. For those of you who only experienced a partial eclipse, as I did, it was kind of like listening to a big Rock concert from outside the stadium. You got a taste of the big show, but nothing like actually being there.

Still, the sky dimmed enough to take notice, and I couldn’t help but think of our forebearers over the centuries who didn’t have Live Eclipse Coverage on their personal devices, and how even a partial eclipse must have freaked the hell out of them. People who lived off the land had enough to worry about without wondering if the sun was suddenly on the fritz.

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In modern times our knowledge of the universe has eliminated that fear, but human cultures all over the world still reflect plenty of reverence for that big ball of gas in the sky. The sun shining down on us has come to represent all that is good and happy in a million songs, while the absence of sunshine has stood for sadness and heartbreak in another million.

And not too many of those got it better than “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore”. This was the first song that came into my head yesterday, mostly because it’s just such an epic song. I mean, if you’re going to sing metaphorically about a massive celestial event, you really need to go big. There’s a definite grandeur to this number, from a deliciously melodramatic lyric that seems lifted from the pages of Bronte – “Loneliness is a cloak you wear” – to an over-the-top, towering melody that’s not for the faint-hearted.

The song was written by Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio, the duo behind all of the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons hits, and Gaudio ended up calling this one of the best songs he ever wrote. In 1965 Valli recorded the song first, but it didn’t go anywhere. In 1966 the British teen idols The Walker Brothers punched up the song in a few places and it became a massive hit.

And it’s got legs. Clarence Clemons and Long John Baldry each gave it a good run in the Eighties, but the 1990 movie Truly, Madly, Deeply brought it back into public consciousness. This beautiful little film about love and loss and carrying on had Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson deliver an unforgettable performance of the song. In 1995 Cher charted in the U.K. with a very Cher-like version, and in 2004 the British Pop-Rockers Keane modernized it a bit, revealing the strength of the songwriting by taking out some of the bombast.

I’m betting that by the time the next solar eclipse in North America comes around in 2024, yet other brave artist will have taken a run at this classic.

Photo: By Happybluemo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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