Is there any song more perfect, and more indestructible, than “Summertime”?
The “Porgy and Bess” tune is a model of simplicity and delicacy, its lyrics (by DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin) and music (by George Gershwin) conveying so much with so little: one- and two-syllable words and, in some arrangements, just four chords.
And the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’
And the cotton is high
And yet its yearning is unmistakable, whether it’s from the descending pattern after “high” or the heartbreakingly hopeful third verse, with its quiet declaration of a better future. It’s a blues song entwined with a spiritual.
One of these mornings
You’re going to rise up singing
Then you’ll spread your wings
And you’ll take to the sky
I own several versions of “Summertime,” but I’m a piker at best. There are more than 25,000 available. In fact, there’s a site created by devotees that’s trying to list as many as possible.
Given that the weather is hot and I just heard Al Green’s version this morning, seems like a good time to post my favorites.
I’ll start with Green, who elevates everything he does:
Then tack over to Billy Stewart, whose wild 1966 version I didn’t even recognize as “Summertime” until years after I first heard it:
And finally, my favorite, by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Moves me every time:
What’s your favorite? Post them in the comments.