A look back at Summertime's consummate song
The Calgary Eyeopener’s Chris dela Torre looks at the history of the George Gershwin tune
Summertime, and the livin' is easy.
Originally written by George Gershwin, Summertime is one of the season’s most iconic songs.
The Calgary Eyeopener’s Chris dela Torre picked the classic tune to kick off his new weekly summer feature on the backstories of the season's most popular songs.
- What's your favourite version of the song? Share in the comments.
Gershwin first started writing it in 1933, while creating music for the opera Porgy and Bess, which was adapted from the novel Porgy, written by DuBose Heyward.
Gershwin took some words from the novel, and spent nearly two years trying to write something in the black spiritual folk vein of the time.
Every Thursday this season Chris dela Torre will look at the history behind a summer song.
Since then, the song has been recorded more than 30,000 times.
"This was an opera about black Americans, using black music and black performers . So it was pretty controversial at the time, but there's something about this song that transcended the cultural climate of the time," says dela Torre.
"After its life onstage, Summertime became a jazz standard — Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone all recorded it. It was on the pop charts in the '50s and early '60s. Then it took a turn, and found its way into heavy rock."
Big Brother and The Holding Company recorded it in 1968 when Janis Joplin was still part of the band. There has also been trip-hop and punk versions of the song, including a popular version from Sublime.