Keep on the Sunny Side on Throwback Thursday

This song comes recommended by member Marsha Goodman-Wood.

Marsha Goodman-Wood
Marsha Goodman-Wood

I often like to start a morning show with “Keep on the Sunny Side” — but before I reveal what song I’m going to sing, I prep my audience by asking them to stretch their arms up high in the air and then out to the sides like a big sunrise (and I demonstrate the move at the same time). I’ll say, “Boy, it feels really good to stretch like this (even for the grownups), so let’s try it one more time together.” Then I tell them we’ll do that move every time we hear the words sun, sunny, or sunshine in the song and that the song is called “Keep on the Sunny Side” (doing the action while I say the title). Finally, I remind them one more time to listen for the words and to do the action when the song reminds them to do it!
“Keep On the Sunny Side” was originally written by Ada Blenkhorn in 1899 with music by J. Howard Entwisle. The song was popularized by the Carter Family in a 1928 recording.  I first encountered the song in the 2000 Coen Brothers’ film, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” sung by The Whites.

I use the lyric change that The Whites sing at the beginning of the second verse: “Though the storm and its furies rage today” and also use their change of making “cherish” present tense instead past tense, which I think makes the song more hopeful. I also skip the third verse, keeping it secular.
I usually repeat the chorus twice at the end and also invite the audience to sing along, too. On the repeat I’ll tell them to see if they can stretch a little higher and wider, and if they want, to add a jump in the air. If I have an energetic audience, I’ll say, “Wow, that looked too easy. Do you think we should try it a little faster?” Usually they’ll shout, “YES!”  Then we’ll do it faster and faster and faster, before finishing by repeating the final line slowly. The audience loves doing this and it’s a great way to get them engaged & energized from the beginning of a show!


  1. What a way to start the day! Thanks, Marsha, for your always cheerful, encouraging musical nuggets.

  2. Thanks for this Marsha…..I never knew the whole song! I only know the camp version that is interspersed with riddles:
    Stay on the sunny side,
    Always on the sunny side,
    Stay on the sunny side of life.
    You’ll feel no pain as we drive you insane,
    If you’ll stay on the sunny side of life.

  3. Too funny! I don’t think I’ve ever heard the camp version. Thanks for sharing that bonus part, Joanie!

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