By John Young
Updated August 03, 2010 at 12:00 PM EDT

Singer and songwriter Bobby Hebb, 72, who was best known for his 1966 hit song, “Sunny,” died Tuesday of cancer in Nashville, Tenn., according to the AP. “Sunny,” a song that’s been frequently covered by dozens of artists (including Cher, Frank Sinatra, Jose Feliciano, Marvin Gaye, and Wilson Pickett), was written by Hebb shortly after his brother was fatally knifed outside a Nashville nightclub. Hebb also told reporters that the song was a response to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which occurred the day before Hebb’s brother was killed. The surprisingly optimistic song, about how a woman’s smile brightened the musician’s mood, was later recorded in 1966 and became a hit that summer. Hebb was born to blind parents in Nashville, where his brother and he grew up performing as a song-and-dance team. Hebb remained active in Nashville until his death, operating his own publishing company and record label, Hebb Cats. He is survived by a daughter and four sisters.