Well, here in the Northern Hemisphere, it has been summer for about ten days now, though frankly Mother Nature scoffs at human’s absurd insistence on schedules, calendars, clocks, etc., and follows her own agenda, often to the chagrin of humans who are tied to that artificial concept of time. Our friends in Canada and the Pacific Northwest have been suffering truly unbearable ‘summertime’ this week and my heart goes out to them. Our time, my friends, is coming … you can count on it. Anyway, I thought a song to bring in the season would be apt, and there were several to choose from, but … nobody does it quite like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.
This song was recorded by more artists than I can count on all my fingers and toes, including Mahalia Jackson, Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Sam Cooke, Miles Davis, Ricky Nelson, John Coltrane, Julie London, Angelique Kidjo, and Frank Sinatra, to name just a few.
With at least 25,000 versions, Porgy and Bess’s opening aria, Summertime, is the most covered song in the world.
Written in 1934, Summertime was one of the first compositions George Gershwin worked on for his brand-new opera Porgy and Bess. The jazz-inspired song is a lullaby for Clara to sing to her child, and it is reprised several more times throughout the opera. The versatile hit went on to be covered by thousands of artists, in every genre from disco to reggae. Unfortunately, Gershwin wouldn’t live to see his song become the world-famous one it is today.
Up until the release of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s Jazz album, Porgy and Bess, Summertime was still relatively unknown.
Fitzgerald’s cover quickly propelled the song into the limelight, not only cementing it as a jazz staple, but also as globally recognisable hit. The opera was even turned into a film two years later (featuring Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge in the title roles), further propelling the song for greatness.
Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong
Summertime and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Your daddy’s rich and your ma is good lookin’
So hush, little baby, baby, don’t you cry
One of these mornin’s, you’re gonna rise up singin’
Then you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky
But ’til that mornin’, there is nothin’ can harm you
With Daddy and Mummy, Mummy standing by
Don’t you cry…
Songwriters: Ira Gershwin / George Gershwin / Dubose Heyward