Garnett wrote the hit song at age 14 for folksinger Hoyt Axton, who recorded it in January 1963. The following year, RCA Victor asked Garnett to record her own 45-rpm single in her smooth, easy alto, with Prism Song on the B side. West Coast and Ohio radio stations promoted it first, along with a Billboard review calling it a “Gutsy and sincere sentimental pop-folk ballad” but it was Jim Lange in San Francisco who first broke the song. Listeners loved the way the song’s moderate tempo and bluesy swing paralleled the casualness of the woman’s affections.
We’ll Sing in the Sunshine, despite or perhaps because it being a contemporary-folk offering from a young unknown Canadian artist against established US and UK pop-rock stars, achieved immediate success. In Canada, the single entered RPM’s Top 40 Singles chart on September 8, 1964, reaching No. 2 by October 19; it later enjoyed several weeks on RPM’s Top 10 Adult Contemporary chart. September 1964 also saw the song on Canadian radio station CHUM’s chart at No. 10.
In the US, We’ll Sing in the Sunshine dominated Billboard, holding the No. 1 Adult Contemporary chart spot through September 26 to October 31, and taking No. 1 on Cashbox’s Top 100 over recordings by Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand. It crossed over to Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart for 17 weeks, finding No. 4 there, and to the country chart (No. 43). In New Zealand, Garnett’s home country, the song made No. 1 that November.
Capitalizing on the single’s phenomenal success, RCA quickly released Garnett’s debut album, “My Kind of Folk Songs” (LSP-2833), with the hit’s title prominently displayed on the cover. Even if under aged, Garnett toured We’ll Sing in the Sunshine to night clubs in the US and performed it on influential TV variety shows including “Shindig,” “American Bandstand,” and “The Red Skelton Show”.
In January 1965, Garnett told an interviewer, “I wrote the words and music and sang it and of all the things that have happened to me, it is possibly the greatest thrill to have had people say ‘yes’ to something of mine to the tune of 900,000 records.” All told, Garnett’s recording went gold, selling 3.5 million copies by 1979.
We’ll Sing in the Sunshine went on to win the 1965 Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Recording of 1964, beating out Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’. It earned further nominations for Best Accompaniment Arrangement and Best Female Vocal Performance (losing the latter to Streisand).