Open up your mouth and let the sun shine in

I’ve always enjoyed the song “Open Up Your Heart (And Let The Sunshine In),” recorded in 1955 by Stuart Hamblen and his family as the Cowboy Church Sunday School. Hamblen’s original version was recorded with “Chipmunks” sound effects (recorded at 33 rpm, played at 45) which I find grating, so it’s better to hear it sung by someone else, like the Blackwood Brothers Quartet. (Skip to the four-minute mark to miss the “very important message”; WordPress apparently doesn’t support linking to a particular point in a YouTube video.)

The Wikipedia article on Hamblen says that “some of his post-conversion songs depict a rather wrathful version of the Gospel, sung with such good-natured high spirits that they have an ironic appeal to the non-religious” — missing the point completely. Yes, the key to the song’s appeal is the fact that it’s a cheerful, lilting children’s tune which is actually “all about the devil,” but irony’s got nothing to do with it.


My brothers and I used to sing a modified version of this song when we were kids, making it a song about letting the sun shine into your mouth rather than your heart. The only lines I remember — probably the only lines there were — are “Let the sun shine in / Give your tongue a tan / Open up your mouth and let the sun shine in.”

When I walk long distances I like to sing to keep up my pace, and Hamblen’s song is one of my go-to tunes, though of course I have to pick up the tempo a bit to make it a suitable marching song. Over the years, I’ve expanded the “open up your mouth” version, adding verses as I go along. It now goes something like this.


Mama told me something that a little kid should know.
It’s all about the devil, and I’ve learned to hate him so.
She told me where the sun don’t shine is where he likes to hide,
And if your mouth is closed the devil just might be inside.

So let the sun shine in. Give your tongue a tan.
If I were a can opener, your mouth would be the can.
Oh, let the sun shine in. Give your tongue a tan.
Just open up your mouth and let the sun shine in.

When it’s dark inside your mouth, the devil wears a grin.
He likes to hide inside it ’cause the sunlight hurts his skin.
If you don’t want him in there, open up those pearly gates,
And fill your mouth with sunshine, which is what the devil hates.

Oh, let the sun shine in, etc.

I learned this back in Sunday school when I was very young:
As ships are to their helms, so is the body to the tongue.
It’s just a little member but can steer the body right,
And if thy tongue be single, all thy body’ll fill with light.

So let the sun shine in, etc.

I know the day is coming that will end this night of sin.
The sky will open wide and let the Son of God shine in.
From Jesus’ open mouth there will proceed a shining sword.
Then every knee shall bow and every tongue confess the Lord.

Oh, let the sun shine in, etc.


Filed under Music

2 responses to “Open up your mouth and let the sun shine in

  1. chrstphre

    i am so happy that your 4_minute suggestion included the joke !

  2. Another verse:

    You’ve heard about Isaiah, how he purified his soul:
    He let a shining seraph fill his mouth with burning coal.
    Now, don’t try that at home, ’cause you’re not in the prophet’s class.
    Hot coals are for the pros. Just use a magnifying glass,

    And let the sun shine in, etc.

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