On the sunny side of the street

1930© Music by Jimmy McHugh and lyrics by Dorothy Fields

Dorothy Fields   * Allenhurst, NJ Jul 15, 1905
† New York City, NY Mar 28, 1974
Jimmy McHugh * Boston, Mass Jul 10, 1894
† Beverly Hills, Ca May 23, 1969

This well-loved standard has its roots in the Depression. A year after the Wall Street Crash Dorothy provided songs for Lew Leslie’s International Revue, including this optimistic number, introduced by Harry Richman.
Most singers omit the verse and just start with the famous Grab your coat and get your hat. This is a great shame, as the verse(see below) sets the scene so well for the refrain. This is a “before and after” song, and the verse establishes the singer’s depressed state before he/she learnt to adopt a more positive attitude.
Walked with no-one and talked with no-one
And I had nothing but shadows.
Then one morning you passed
And I brightened at last.
Now I greet the day, and complete the day,
With the sun in my heart.
All my worry blew away
When you taught me how to say:

The familiar refrain is full of jaunty, cheery colloquialisms: Leave your worries on the doorstep … ; just direct your feet … ; this rover crossed over. Stephen Sondheim said: What I like best about Dorothy Fields is her use of colloquialism and her effortlessness, as in Sunny Side of the Street which is just perfect as a lyric.
The middle section of the refrain is a joyous affirmation of the singer’s optimism, bolstered by the assertive McHugh melody:
I used to walk in the shade,
With those blues on parade,
But I’m not afraid.
This rover
Crossed over
Critic Mark Steyn uses this song as an example of how song-writing had changed since the turn of the century. He says it would never have occurred to early writers to rhyme across the first two quatrains (e.g. hat / doorstep / pitter-pat / your step). Nor would they have ever stuctured the middle eight quoted above so that a three-rhyme (shade / parade / afraid ) is followed by two meaty short-stopped phrases. “You only write that way if you’re writing to a tune, and if you do it as well as Dorothy Fields did here, it blasts across the footlights and chisels its way into the national consciousness.”
And it is not until the end of the song, that the connection with the Depression is clarified with the If I never have a cent line. You realise that the singer’s gloom was at least partly connected with poverty. By Jon Aldous 2006 i1
Lyrics:
Verse:
Walked with no-one and talked with no-one,
And I had nothing but shadows.
Then one morning you passed
And I brightened at last.
Now I greet the day, and complete the day,
With the sun in my heart.
All my worry blew away
When you taught me how to say:

Chorus:
Grab  your coat and get your hat, leave your worry at the doorstep,
Just direct your feet, to the sunny side of the street.
Can’t you hear that pitter pat and that happy tune is your step,
Life can be so sweet, on the sunny side of the street.

I used to walk in the shade, with those blues on parade,
But I’m not afraid ’cause this rover, crossed over,
If I never had a cent, I’ll be rich as Rockefeller,
Golddust at my feet, on the sunnny side of the street.