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An Unlikely Source of 'Sunshine'

The Lesser Birds of Paradise turns a much-loved children's song on its head.
The Lesser Birds of Paradise turns a much-loved children's song on its head.

The Lesser Birds of Paradise's "You Are My Sunshine" takes the much-loved children's song and turns it on its head, smothering the classic in soothing sounds and atmospheric folk. It's unlikely source material for the Chicago band, which specializes in pastoral folk music marked by hushed drums, quiet piano, occasional saws and xylophones, and Tim Joyce's tender vocals.

"You Are My Sunshine" moves at a dreamy pace, as slowly drifting layers of sound shimmer and sway like a distant desert mirage. The landscape seems both calming and devastating, thanks in part to Joyce's performance. Familiar lyrics — "If you leave me to love another / you'll regret it all some day / You are my sunshine / my only sunshine" — take on a new meaning when slowed to a crawl, accompanied by ringing dulcimer tones and faint tape hisses.

Joyce lures listeners in with an intimate vocal before the rest of the band opens up, lulling victims into a dark, hypnotic trance: The Lesser Birds of Paradise's music can be heady and sometimes overwhelming, and "You Are My Sunshine" is no exception. The song will never be the same.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day'.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Kathryn Yu
By day, Kathryn Yu is an Interaction Designer working for a marketing firm in New York City, toiling away at Web sites. By night, she's a freelance photographer and live-music addict. Her photography has appeared in publications like Pitchfork, Rollingstone.com, Thrillist, Gothamist, and more. She often forgets to blog at kathrynyu.com, and is also making a movie.