It's Summertime, and the Livin' Is Easy...
June 26, 2012
Well, summer is finally here with its 100°F days and muggy nights. Instead of complaining about the heat, why not appreciate summertime for its own virtues? For one, it gave us one of the greatest songs in the American songbook. Let's cool off with one of the greatest American vocalists of all time, Ella Fitzgerald, singing one of the greatest American songs of all time, the Gershwin Brothers' Summertime.
Originally created as an aria for the Gershwin's revolutionary 1935 opera Porgy and Bess, Summertime has gone on to become a jazz standard and one of the most covered songs of all time. Gershwin's vision was to take the music of the African-American South and create a "folk opera" featuring a cast of African-American classical singers. The world of 1935 was not ready for Porgy and Bess, as it took decades before it became established as one of the great works of the American and international operatic canons. We have indeed come a very long way from 1935; in 2001, South Carolina declared Porgy and Bess (set in the fictional Catfish Row of Charleston) as its official state opera.
Speaking of cool, here's the King of Cool, Miles Davis.
Here's Janis Joplin's iconic take.
How about a version that's a little more upbeat? Here's Billy Stewart's take, and one that deserves to be heard more often.
These Zombies have temporarily given up their search for brains to bring us this cover.
Even Itzhak Perlman, classical violinist extraordinaire, can't resist the siren call of Summertime.
Summertime isn't just appreciated by Americans. It has transcended nationality to become an internationally known standard. Don't believe me? Here's a jazz accordionist's take at a Dutch nightclub.
Perhaps the strangest cover I've ever run across, here's Summertime on the Bulgarian bagpipes.
I love the simplicity of this bass and ukulele cover.
Representing the latest generation of pop stars, here's Leona Lewis belting it out on the X-Factor British edition.
This post could go on for a VERY long time, as there are so many good covers, but I'm going to finish with the aria itself as performed by soprano Leontyne Price.
Wow. Just wow. I hope this post has given you a new appreciation for Summertime, the song and the season.