You are my sunshine by Johnny Cash is not an actual Johnny Cash song. It was written and popularized by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell in 1939.

In fact, this song has been recorded numerous times by legends such as Nat King Cole, Doris Day, Ray Charles, The Beach Boys, Aretha Franklin, and Cuch Berry, to name just a few. However, it is sometimes attributed to Johnny Cash. This is because Cash’s version from his 2004 album Unearthed is arguably the best known, and the basis for today’s tutorial. He also recorded it years before in a collaboration with Bob Dylan. “You are my sunshine” is a beloved song and a great selection to learn on the uke. Here’s how to play “You are my sunshine” by Johnny Cash on ukulele. 

Chords and harmony

You are my sunshine by Johnny Cash uses simple ukulele chords on concert tuning. The harmony is composed of A, D, E7. And that is it! That’s right, one of the most beloved songs ever is also one of the simplest. 

To play A major, place your index finger and on the first fret, third string. Then place your middle finger on the fourth string, second fret. For D major, place your middle finger on the fourth string, second fret. Then place your ring finger right below, on the fourth string, second fret. Add your pinky right below, on the second string, second fret. And finally, for the E7, place your index finger on the fourth string, second fret. Follow with your middle finger on the third string second fret and your ring finger on the first string second fret. And there you have all the chords for “You are my sunshine”


Oftentimes the structure or form of the song is what tends to be most complicated for folks that are starting out. This is because you have to be fully concentrated for the duration of the song to be able to play it. Playing music is a great exercise for your brain, and takes you away from mindless scrolling through social media. The form is A for 16 beats, D for 8 beats, A for 8 beats, D for 8 beats, A for 12 beats, E7 for 4 beats, A for 4 beats. Reading that might make it seem more complicated that it actually is. Listen to the song a few times, and once you know the chord fingering, try playing along.

Strumming pattern 

The song starts with the common uke pattern down, down up down, down up. (D – D U D – DU).  Simply follow the form of “You are my sunshine” to incorporate the strumming pattern. I know that it may not feel simple if you’re just starting out. But if you keep practicing it will get better quickly. Please keep in mind that you have to start slow at first. So take your time with incorporating the strumming pattern with the form. 

You are my sunshine by Johnny Cash is a great song to learn on the ukulele, at all levels. It features three simple chords, an easy strumming pattern, and an intuitive song form. It has that perfect combination of simplicity, beauty, and fun that many classics display. And once you learn this song, you can start with other simple ukulele songs. And if you are feeling adventurous, start experimenting with alternate ukulele tunnings. Also, download the Roadie Coach app for learning ukulele available on iOS and Android for hours of fun and learning with the instrument. The uke is such a fun, easy, and convenient instrument that can bring anyone hours of fun and enjoyment. Feel free to leave us a comment below with other songs you wish to learn on the ukulele.