Thursday, September 23, 2021

A Belated Look at "Summertime"


Since retirement, I enjoy drinking my morning coffee out on the old front porch when the weather is nice and warm.

This morning, after about a half a cup, I came back inside. It was too chilly.

It's Sept. 23 and I think summer time is over. So let's celebrate "Summertime."

This classic song started on Broadway, composed in 1935 by George Gershwin with lyrics by DuBose Heyward, for the musical Porgy and Bess. The lullaby soon became a jazz standard and made its impact in other genres of popular music as well. 

Here's the first recording of it from 1935 featuring soprano Abbie Mitchell on vocals and Gershwin on piano. Abbie's part doesn't start until about 2 minutes in:


Here's the version by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, who did an album of Porgy and Bess songs in 1959:

The very first version I ever heard was Sam Cooke's. And it's still a doozie:

Soul singer Billy Stewart had a hit single with the song in the '60s. Dig the 10-gallon hat here:

Many members of My Generation believe that "Summertime" started with Big Brother & The Holding Company. It didn't, of course, but Big Brother's version was beyond powerful. Here's a 1969 live performance by Janis Joplin after she went solo:


Doc Watson, with his son Merle, took the song to the country:


And more recently, the Swiss band Die Zorros (featuring the unstoppable Reverend Beat-Man) took it to the Bizarro World:  


The cool weather is nice, but don't be a stranger, summertime! I like it best when the livin' is easy!

For more deep dives into songs, check out The Stephen W. Terrell Web Log Songbook

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