“Good Day Sunshine” is one of those deceptively simple songs that’s so deceptively simple, I sometimes wonder if perhaps it’s deceptively deceptively simple.

Recorded on June 8th and 9th of 1966, it starts with a chordal rumble and a “let’s go” snare and cymbal. John and Paul join in, offering the following thesis:

Good day sunshine.

They sing this a few times to make sure we’re all on board, and then Paul expands:

“I need to laugh,” he says, “and when the sun is out, I’ve got something I can laugh about.” Because, you know, the sun is funny. Perhaps not Smothers Brothers funny, but funny. 

“I feel good, in a special way.” Faint alarms start to go off here, but before we can panic too much:

I’m in love and it’s a sunny day

Ah! — the buried lede! It’s not just a sunshiney good day, or even an Ice-Cube-y “Drunk as hell but no throwin’ up” good day. Paul’s singing about a good day, sunshine, and love — the hat trick of happiness.

The chorus returns, perhaps with extra sparkle, and then Paul dives back in:

“We take a walk, the sun is shining down. Burns my feet as they touch the ground,” followed by a classic McCartney-style “what the hell is this doing here? I don’t know but I like it” saloon piano trill. [Ed. Note: That’s George Martin on the piano.]

And let me just say how much I love that little couplet, piano trill and all. They walk. It’s sunny. You can feel the ground scorching his bare feet with every step. What more can you say but:

Good day sunshine, good day sunshine, good day sunshine

Things take an unexpected twist at the start of the third verse.

“Then we’d lie beneath the shady tree.” Given what we know about the so-called “good day sunshine” universe, it’s hard to take this as anything less than a seam-splitting curveball. The blocked sun — the very lack of sun — is now a source of comfort?!

“I love her and she’s loving me. She feels good. She knows she’s looking fine. I’m so proud to know that she is mine.” That last phrase is Neanderthalic, at least to the modern ear. But it’s a sunny day and we’re feeling generous, so we’ll put that aside.

So there it is — the case made. And what have we learned about the nature of happiness?

A walk. Sunshine, even the lack of sunshine. Having someone we love, and spending time with that someone. Feeling good and feeling pain. Even feeling pride. All these things make for a good day.

And, as the last ringing layered chorus of “good day sunshine” lifts us toward the sky, we remember oh yeah — and music too.

Simple, and also deceptively simple. But mostly just beautiful.

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