Willie Nelson dreams of a place where there’s shelter from the storms of earthly life. Uncloudy Day sounds like a gospel standard, but the song is actually a Nelson original that was recorded in 1973 for the album “The Troublemaker.” It didn’t see release until 1976 because of doubts about its commercial prospects. However, he proved music executives wrong with his multiplatinum “Red Headed Stranger,” and it was an uncloudy day in 1976 when “The Troublemaker” and “Uncloudy Day” topped the charts.

O they tell me of a home where no storm clouds rise,
O they tell me of an unclouded day.

Willie Nelson (image from consequenceofsound.files.wordpress.com)

Uncloudy Day

Uncloudy Day, also known as Unclouded Day, is a gospel song written by Josiah Kelley Alwood in 1879. Originally popular in church hymnals, it has come to be recorded many times over the years since, including being an early attention-getter for future star act The Staple Singers in 1956, their version serving as an inspiration to a young Bob Dylan, who called it “the most mysterious thing I’d ever heard.” The Staple Singers covered this song in 1956. 13-year-old Mavis Staples providing deep-voiced, soulful vocals that most assumed had come from an older woman expressing great experience, or even a man. 

Alwood related a story about the event that inspired the song:

It was a balmy night in August 1879. While returning from a debate in Spring Hill, Ohio, to my home in Morenci, Michigan, about 1:00 a.m. And I saw a beautiful rainbow north by northwest against a dense black nimbus cloud. The sky was all perfectly clear. Except this dark cloud which covered about forty degrees of the horizon and extended about halfway to the zenith. The phenomenon was also entirely new to me and my nerves refreshed by the balmy air and the lovely sight. Old Morpheus was playing his sweetest lullaby. Another mile of travel and a few moments of time. Also add a fellow of my size ensconced in sweet home and wrapped in sweet sleep. A first class know-nothing till rosy-sweet morning was wide over the fields.

Other Versions

Among other artists to have recorded this song are Gloria Lynne (1954), Johnny Cash (1970), Rory Block (1981), Don Henley (1982), Doc Watson (1990), Sons of the San Joaquin (1997), Randy Travis (2003), Brad Paisley (2005), Brenda Lee (2007), The Blind Boys of Alabama (2008), and Audra Mae (2011).

Here’s Willie Nelson’s poignant rendition of the song.

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