The Songs of Summer #23: ‘Why Does the Sun Shine?’ by They Might Be Giants
In order to properly enjoy the summer, I think it’s worth taking a moment to learn about the source of most (if not all) summertime fun, the sun. The sun, as you may know, is the star that our planet revolves around, and without it, all life on earth would be totally screwed, and summer would just be one huge bummer.
It’s a gray, rainy, coolish day here in Michigan today. We actually get quite a few days like this in the summertime around here; I like to think these gray days make us more appreciative of the truly gorgeous days than someone from, say, Southern California. The gray skies got me thinking about the sun, and how the lack of sunshine (and the corresponding warmth) can throw a wet blanket on our summertime plans. Which got me to thinking about this song from They Might Be Giants.
We take our nearest star for granted, we really do. Without it, there’s nothing. Not only would Earth be just a lifeless rock floating in the void of space, it wouldn’t even exist in the first place. We kinda needed the Sun’s gravitational pull to gather all the space dust and debris to form our planet. No sun, no Earth. It’s really that simple.
But just what is the Sun? Yes, I know it’s a star, but what’s a star. They Might Be Giants are here to explain it all to you. Actually, they give you the 1959 version of how the Sun works…This song is actually a cover version of a 1959 song from an album about space called, wait for it, ‘Space Songs,’ by American folk singer Tom Glazer. The lyrics of the song’s refrain come directly from a 1951 children’s Golden Guide book called ‘Stars.’
They Might Be Giants recorded an updated version of the song in 2009 called ‘Why Does the Sun Really Shine? (The Sun is a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma)’ that corrects some of the 1950s-era lyrics’ scientific inaccuracies.
So while we wait for the clouds to part and the sun to reappear, let’s all learn a little astronomy, shall we?
1993 They Might Be Giants version:
Why Does the Sun Really Shine? (2009 They Might Be Giants):
Original 1959 Tom Glazer version: