Do you ever wonder why certain pieces of music last while others don’t? These are the kinds of music we think of as “classics,” whatever their genres. ” Summertime” is one great example, a perfect song for the current (and really any) season.
Written in the mid-1930’s for George Gershwin’s folk opera Porgy and Bess, it’s sung very early in the opening scene as Clara, one of the poor residents of Catfish Row, soothes her baby with a lullaby.
What’s amazing is how often–and differently–this song has been recorded over the intervening seventy-plus years. It’s one of the most widely performed numbers in The Great American Songbook and is available on iTunes in over a hundred different versions. You can find vocal renditions by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, Sonny and Cher, Mahalia Jackson, Janis Joplin, Willie Nelson, Jerry Garcia, Paul McCartney, Booker T, and on and on; as well as purely instrumental treatments by Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Art Tatum, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, John Coltrane, to name just a few. So look up your favorite artists and see if “Summertime” shows up on their playlists.
What is it about this song that touches us so?
To learn an answer and hear the original version of “Summertime” as well as two other gorgeous treatments by Miles Davis and Jascha Heifetz, click here
What music do you think of as your own “classics”? Send us your lists and we’ll feature them in future newsletters and posts.