The story behind the quintessential revenge song.
Image from Columbia Records
June 24, 1997, saw the release of Shawn Colvin?s most popular single to date. ?Sunny Came Home? was not supposed to be released as a single though, it was just another track from A Few Small Repairs. The record company didn?t think the song had commercial appeal.
Radio stations began playing it. Executives watched as the song took off in popularity and reversed their decision. It was released as an official single. It peaked at #7 on the Billboard hot 100 charts.
Along with being a commercial success, the song was also a critical smash. It won Grammy awards for Record and Song of the Year. Colvin had reached the kind of success most artists only dream of.
And she has a dark period in her life to thank.
Divorce Thy Name Is Sunny
As Colvin was writing songs for A Few Small Repairs, her marriage to Simon Tassano was coming to an end. So she turned the project into a concept album. The running theme of the CD was divorce.
Part of the inspiration for ?Sunny Came Home? was the CD?s artwork, which was painted by Colvin?s friend Julie Speed. As she wrote the song, Colvin began to tell a story about a woman who was left for another woman.
Sunny was seeking vengeance.
In her memoir, Diamond In The Rough, Colvin admitted to being depressed and anxious. Critics say those feelings shine through in the song. In fact, many of them believe the song as a whole is a metaphor for the emotions of a breakup. Including trying to fix the relationship, ?she opened a book and a box of tools.? The rest of the song would follow the end, including the fire that takes place in the middle of the song.
Experimenting In Music
?Sunny Came Home? is one of several ?story songs? on A Few Small Repairs. It was the first time she had played with that format. With ?Sunny?s? success, Colvin has tried to use that format even more.
One of the things that sets the song apart from most other music is the composition of the song. The lyrics are dark and emotive. For example the bridge of the song:
?Get the kids and bring a sweater; dry is good, and wind is better. Count the years; you always knew it. Strike a match; go on and do it?
The dark lyrics are set against light, almost cheerful music. This juxtaposition was meant to balance the song, but it ended up adding more to the reading of it. Many think that Colvin was trying to let people know that sometimes breaking up is the only course of action. They also suggest that her intention was for the music to be life and the lyrics what happens to a person during the uncoupling.
Colvin rereleased A Few Small Repairs in 2017 for the 20th anniversary of her landmark album. But ?Sunny Came Home? has proven to be a timeless classic.