(To learn how to play ‘Sunny Side’, watch the video at below.)
Keep On The Sunny Side is a hymn written by Ada Blenkhorn in 1899 (Music by J. Howard Entwisle 1866-1903). I was aware of the song for many years, but it wasn’t really one of my favorite hymns as a child. Didn’t even think about it for years, until the movie “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” came out. Great movie, excellent sound track. It did wonders for reintroducing songs that had fallen out of mainstream consciousness.
Keep on the Sunny Side didn’t recapture my attention right away. It was while working on the song “Church in the Wildwood” that I recalled ‘Sunny Side’ and realized it would be perfect for a future post. The melody, the folksy feel, the lyrics, are all exactly the kind of music I love to hear.
In researching Sunny Side, I learned it was written by Ada Blenkhorn. This may not mean anything to you
(it didn’t to me) until finding out she also wrote “Let the Sunshine In”. Another childhood favorite, and very likely a future post here. :^)
Sunny Side was inspired by Ada’s nephew, who was wheelchair-bound. He always requested to be pushed along on the “sunny side” of the road. Ada, who started writing hymns in 1892, found a message in the request, and wrote the song based on his request.
According to Hymnary.org, a prison chaplain claimed her hymns did more good for their prisoners than all the sermons ever preached to them. That’s pretty inspirational, especially when you realize she nearly gave up writing out of discouragement. A chance acquaintance told her not to give up, that her songs would convert some soul who otherwise may never have been converted. According to Ada, those words (for the exact quote, check out Hymnary) inspired her to continue, like an “invisible and mighty chain that held me fast” and would not allow her to give up writing. At least one prison conversion has been attributed to her hymns, and went on to become a preacher of the gospel.
History shows Ada remained true to her conviction, and continued to write. There are more than 300 songs to her credit. You can see the listings at hymntime.com.
Keep on the Sunny Side ‘hit the big time” when it was recorded in 1928 by the Carter Family. Sufficient to say, if one of the leading families of gospel music sang it, the song is going be loved and appreciated for generations to come.