Every once in a while, a song captures the American imagination. It may not break any rules or be terribly different from a thousand other songs that you'll likely never hear, it just clicks. Well, 25 years ago this week, this was that song.

(Soundbite of song, "Walking on Sunshine")

Ms. KATRINA LESKANICH (Lead Singer, Katrina and the Waves): (Singing) I'm walking on sunshine, whoa. I'm walking on sunshine, whoa.

BLOCK: A quarter of a century later, "Walking on Sunshine" still clicks.

And as NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports, it's still paying the musicians who created it.

ELIZABETH BLAIR: When people used to ask Katrina Leskanich what she did for a living, she'd say:

Ms. LESKANICH: I'm a singer in a band Katrina and the Waves. Oh, no, never heard of it. "Walking on Sunshine?" Oh, wow, yeah, of course.

(Soundbite of song, "Walking on Sunshine")

Ms. LESKANICH: (Singing) And don't it feel good. Hey. All right now. And don't...

BLAIR: After it was released in 1985, Katrina Leskanich says "Walking on Sunshine" became one of those it's never going to go away songs around the world. And every time the song got played on the radio, it made a little more money.

Tim Lee heads up Tummy Touch Records, Katrina and the Waves' current record label.

Mr. TIM LEE (Tummy Touch Records): Every time you get a song played on the radio, you might make a buck or a buck 50. And if the song's played two million times, as "Walking on Sunshine" has been, you know, it really adds up.

BLAIR: Katrina Leskanich, who'd been a dishwasher on an American military base in England, says it was a lot like winning the lottery. She says the band wisely decided to put themselves on a salary rather than get lump sums. Katrina was able to put a down payment on a small house and bought a new car.

Ms. LESKANICH: The song became bigger than the group, and we did pretty much follow in the wake of its success.

BLAIR: But after a couple of years, the record label wanted another hit, just like "Walking on Sunshine."

Ms. LESKANICH: They thought we were the new Monkees, The Beach Boys. But we weren't even really that kind of band. We were a bit cooler. We thought we were - I thought I was Nico in The Velvet Underground, and, you know, black turtlenecks and black eyeliner, and no smiling in photographs.

BLAIR: So they were dropped. But the money from "Walking on Sunshine" kept coming in. In another wise move, the band held on to the publishing rights. That's the money that typically goes to the songwriter, the band's guitarist, Kimberley Rew. Tim Lee says Rew shares that money with the rest of the band.

The song showed up all over the place: the movies "American Psycho" and "High Fidelity," and countless commercials, everything from diapers to medicine.

(Soundbite of commercial ad)

Unidentified Man: It's another beautiful day.

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) I'm walking on sunshine...

Unidentified Man: Don't lose it to seasonal allergies. Take control.

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) ...and don't it feel good.

Mr. JARRETT MASON: "Walking on Sunshine" often was the crown jewel in EMI's catalog.

BLAIR: Jarrett Mason worked for EMI Publishing from 2004 to 2008. He says of the roughly 1.3 million songs in EMI's catalog, "Walking on Sunshine" was one of its biggest earners. He says advertisers would pay about 150 to $200,000 to use it for one year.

Mr. MASON: It has that sort of feel-good theme that can just be applied everywhere.

(Soundbite of song, "Walking on Sunshine")

Ms. LESKANICH: (Singing) I feel the love, I feel the love, I feel the love, that's really real. I feel the love, I feel the love, I feel the love, that's really real.

BLAIR: By some estimates, "Walking on Sunshine" has made the band Katrina and the Waves about $1 million a year over the last decade.

How long did it take you to write "Walking on Sunshine?"

Mr. KIMBERLEY REW (Guitarist, Katrina and the Waves): Well, I'm trying to remember.

BLAIR: Kimberley Rew has written over 200 songs since then, but he lives off the money from "Walking on Sunshine."

Mr. REW: If we had more songs which more people knew, I mean, that would be so much the better. I mean, basically, you know, we're lucky to have one.

BLAIR: The story of the original band Katrina and the Waves did not end well. Katrina Leskanich says she was fired in 1998. Lawyers were involved. She says she no longer gets a share of the money made from "Walking on Sunshine," but she does still sing it.

(Soundbite of song, "Walking on Sunshine")

Ms. LESKANICH: (Singing) I'm walking on sunshine, whoa. And don't it feel good.

BLAIR: Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

(Soundbite of song, "Walking in Sunshine")

Ms. LESKANICH: (Singing) And don't it feel good. I...


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