You may have noticed we’re in the middle of a heat wave. With no end in sight, Mother Nature is telling us (not so subtly) that summer is here. The dog days never fail to get me humming one song in particular.
The song Summertime was written by George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward for the opera Porgy and Bess. The opera which was based on a book and play by Heyward was originally performed in 1935. Porgy and Bess depicts the lives of African Americans living in the fictional Catfish Row section of Charleston South Carolina. The portrayal of these characters has drawn controversy over what some see as racist stereotypes. Despite Porgy and Bess’ controversial story, there is no denying the impact of its music.
Summertime is one the most covered songs ever with over 33,000 recorded versions. Summertime’s origins are firmly in opera with some of the world’s greatest Sopranos performing the aria. But it’s the folky quality of the music that allows it to be adapted to many kinds of music. Jazz and blues performers were some of the first artists to make the song their own. Definitive jazz performances have been given by Miles Davis, and Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald and there’s my favorite jazz version Billie Holiday’s.
The song hasn’t stopped there though. R&B, Soul and Country artist have also embraced the tune churning out covers that intrigue new audiences. One of the most famous remakes of Gershwin’s Summertime is also my favorite. Check out Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding company’s superb bluesy version!
Beat the heat. Stop by your local library to check out a great cover today.
-Brooke, CLP South Side