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Summertime (song)

16 bars, tenor saxophone

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"Summertime" is an Ira Gershwin by ASCAP.[1]

The song soon became a popular and much recorded jazz standard, described as "without doubt ... one of the finest songs the composer ever wrote ... Gershwin's highly evocative writing brilliantly mixes elements of jazz and the song styles of blacks in the southeast United States from the early twentieth century".[2] Composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim has characterized Heyward's lyrics for "Summertime" and "My Man's Gone Now" as "the best lyrics in the musical theater".[3] The song is recognized as one of the most covered songs in the history of recorded music, with more than 33,000 covers by groups and solo performers.[4]


  • Porgy and Bess 1
  • Analysis 2
    • Lyrics 2.1
    • Music 2.2
  • Other versions 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Porgy and Bess

Gershwin began composing the song in December 1933, attempting to create his own spiritual in the style of the African American folk music of the period.[5][6] Gershwin had completed setting DuBose Heyward's poem to music by February 1934, and spent the next 20 months completing and orchestrating the score of the opera.[7]

The song is sung several times throughout Porgy and Bess. Its lyrics are the first words heard in act 1 of the opera, following the communal "wa-do-wa". It is sung by Clara as a lullaby. The song theme is reprised soon after as counterpoint to the craps game scene, in act 2 in a reprise by Clara, and in act 3 by Bess, singing to Clara's now-orphaned baby after both its parents died in the storm. It was recorded for the first time by Abbie Mitchell on July 19, 1935, with George Gershwin playing the piano and conducting the orchestra (on: George Gershwin Conducts Excerpts from Porgy & Bess, Mark 56 667).

The 1959 movie version of the musical featured Loulie Jean Norman singing the song. That rendition finished at #52 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.



The lyrics for the song are:[8]

An’ the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin'
An’ the cotton is high.

Oh yo’ daddy's rich
An’ yo’ mamma's good lookin'
So hush little baby
Don' yo’ cry.

One of these mornin’s
You're goin’ to rise up singin’
Then you'll spread yo’ wings
An’ you'll take the sky.

But till that mornin’
There's a-nothin’ can harm you
With daddy an’ mammy standin’ by.

Repeat first two verses

Heyward’s inspiration for the lyrics was the southern folk spiritual-lullaby

  • Various versions of "Summertime"
  • "A Languid Look Back To Gershwin's 'Summertime'", NPR Music, October 23, 2008
  • The site of The Summertime Connection with a list of all covers
  • A second site of TSC with texts in different languages
  • Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics

External links

  1. ^ "Summertime" at ASCAP
  2. ^ "Description of song by Robert Cummings at". Retrieved 2013-12-29. 
  3. ^ "A Century of Creativity: DuBose and Dorothy Heyward". 1926-08-02. Retrieved 2013-12-29. 
  4. ^ "The Summertime Connection". Retrieved 20 April 2012. 
  5. ^ Pollack, Howard (2006). George Gershwin: His Life and Work. University of California Press. p. 589. Retrieved 2013-12-29. 
  6. ^ Hyland, William (2003). George Gershwin: A New Biography. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 171. Retrieved 2013-12-29. 
  7. ^ a b c Summertime" at""". Retrieved 2013-12-29. 
  8. ^ "Porgy and Bess – 2009 Teachers’ Guide andResource Book", San Francisco Opera Guild, p. 25
  9. ^ Edward Jablonski, Lawrence Delbert Stewart, The Gershwin years: George and Ira, Da Capo Press, 1996, ISBN 0-306-80739-4, p. 202
  10. ^ a b Jeffrey Paul Melnick, A Right to Sing the Blues, Harvard University Press 1999, ISBN 0-674-76976-7, pp. 129–133
  11. ^ Joanne Lesley Gordon, Art Isn't Easy: The Achievement of Stephen Sondheim, Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, IL., 1990, p. 13
  12. ^ Samuel A. Floyd Jr., ed. (1990). Black Music in the Harlem Renaissance: A Collection of Essays. New York: Westport.  , p. 22
  13. ^ Rosenberg, Deena (1991). Fascinating Rhythm: The Collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin. Penguin Books USA.  , p. 281
  14. ^ Jack Gottlieb, 'Funny, it doesn't sound Jewish, SUNY Press, 2004, ISBN 0-8444-1130-2, pp. 42–43. The author displays the three songs aligned to each other.
  15. ^ Helen Smindak DATELINE NEW YORK: Kochan and Kytasty delve deeply into musical past, The Ukrainian Weekly, 24 May 1998
  16. ^ Joe Nocera (January 21, 2012). "Variations on an Explosive Theme". The New York Times. 
  17. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955–2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 914.  
  18. ^ Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952–2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 497.  
  19. ^  
  20. ^ Betts, p. 747
  21. ^ Paul Friedlander, Rock and Roll: A Social History, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1996. p. 207.
  22. ^ Maury Dean, Rock and Roll: Gold Rush, Algora, New York, 2003, p. 248.
  23. ^ David Starkey, Living Blue in the Red States, University of Nebraska Press, 2007, p. 326
  24. ^ Betts, p. 302
  25. ^ Full lyrics of "Doin' Time" at MetroLyrics
  26. ^ (1996) liner notesSublime


See also

The song "Doin' Time" by Sublime starts with the words "Summertime and the living's easy"[25] and contains elements of "Summertime".[26]

In Britain, a version by the Fun Boy Three reached no. 18 on the singles chart in 1982.[24] Lynda Carter covered this song on her 2009 jazz album At Last. Scottish singer and ex-Eurythmics member Annie Lennox covered "Summertime" on her album with jazz standards Nostalgia in 2014. Jazz pianist, vocalist and musician Norah Jones gave her interpretation of this classic standard in 2003 in a live performance with Marian McPartland.

There are over 25,000 recordings of "Summertime".[16] In September 1936, a recording by Billie Holiday was the first to hit the US pop charts, reaching no. 12.[7] Other versions to make the pop charts include those by Sam Cooke (US no. 81, 1957), Al Martino (UK no. 49, 1960), The Marcels (US no. 78, 1961), Rick Nelson (US no. 89, 1962), and the Chris Columbo Quintet (US no. 93, 1963).[17][18] The Zombies released their version in January 1965 on their debut LP The Zombies. The most commercially successful version was by Billy Stewart, who reached no. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, and no. 7 on the R&B chart in 1966;[19] his version reached no. 39 in the UK.[20] Janis Joplin's version with Big Brother and the Holding Company has been highly praised.[21][22] David Starkey in his article "Summertime" says that Joplin sings the song "with the authority of a very old spirit".[23]

Other versions

[15] in 1929 (or 1926).Ukrainian National Chorus's Alexander Koshetz (A Dream Passes By The Windows) at a New York City performance by Oi Khodyt Son Kolo Vikon has suggested that some part of Gershwin's inspiration may have come from having heard the Ukrainian lullaby, Alexis Kochan The Ukrainian-Canadian composer and singer [14].Pipi-pipipee lullaby Yiddish Alternatively, the song has been proposed as an amalgamation of that spiritual and the Ukrainian [13][12][10] is often considered an adaptation of the African American spiritual Summertime While in his own description, Gershwin did not use any previously composed spirituals in his opera,

Gershwin was remarkably successful in his intent to have this sound like a folk song. This is reinforced by his extensive use of the pentatonic scale (C–D–E–G–A) in the context of the A minor tonality and a slow-moving harmonic progression that suggests a “blues”. Because of these factors, this tune has been a favorite of jazz performers for decades and can be done in a variety of tempos and styles.

Musicologist K. J. McElrath wrote of the song:[7]


That "and" is worth a great deal of attention. I would write "Summertime when" but that "and" sets up a tone, a whole poetic tone, not to mention a whole kind of diction that is going to be used in the play; an informal, uneducated diction and a stream of consciousness, as in many of the songs like "My Man's Gone Now". It's the exact right word, and that word is worth its weight in gold. "Summertime when the livin' is easy" is a boring line compared to "Summertime and". The choices of "ands" [and] "buts" become almost traumatic as you are writing a lyric – or should, anyway – because each one weighs so much.[11]

. Writing of the opening line, he says Stephen Sondheim The lyrics have been highly praised by [10][9]

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