Friday, June 19, 2009


♪And the living is. . . easy.♫

SummertimeThis Gershwin tune from Porgy and Bess is an unofficial anthem of this sunny (let's hope!), languid season ahead. There have been dozens of recorded versions of Summertime, from Billie Holiday to Booker T. & the M.G.'s to Janis Joplin. It's also a standard that's played by many a jazz or blues band the world over probably each and every night.

♪Fish are jumpin'/And the cotton is high...♫

There are two reputed origins for this song: a Ukrainian lullaby, Oy Khodyt Son Kolo Vikon, and African American spirituals such as Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child. A coworker and I once had a goodhearted argument about which song it resembles more. He of the classical music background argued for Ukrainian Lullaby, while I went off on a tangent about Sweet Honey in the Rock.

♫One of these mornings/You're gonna rise up singing♪

NPR has a short piece on what makes the song so evocative. There's also a sound clip of soprano Roberta Alexander singing Bess, with Zubin Mehta directing the New York Philharmonic. As a comparison, listen to what Sam Cooke does with the song.

As the season goes on, keep your ears open. You could hear "Summertime" played on a violin outside of Ecco, floating through the doors of a restaurant, wafting through the air from a scratchy record player. . .

♪So hush little baby/Don't you cry♫

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