May 18, 2020

You can never get enough “Summertime”

Porgy and Bess, by composer George Gershwin and librettists Ira Gershwin and Dubois Heward, is one of the most popular American operas of all time. Not only that, its opening aria, "Summertime” is one of the most beloved songs in American music. In 2012, The New York Times reported that "Summertime" had been covered by artists of all genres more than 25,000 times. We can only imagine how much more that number has grown since.  Join us as we delve into the rich history of artists covering this American classic. 

In 1936, Billie Holiday released the first cover of "Summertime" one year after Porgy and Bess opened. Her recording reached No.12 on US pop charts.

Miles Davis and arranger Gil Evans created one of the most iconic versions on his 1959 album Porgy and Bess, which featured several selections from the opera.

The Ramsey Lewis Trio did an up-tempo jazz version in 1961. 

R&B singer Billy Stewart arranged the song to accommodate his distinctive scat singing style in 1966.

Beninoise singer Angélique Kidjo completely transformed the song into a choral chant backed with percussion on her 2009 best-of collection.

British invasion favorites The Zombies, best known for "She's Not There" and "Time of the Season," covered the song in 1965.

Soul singer Sam Cooke recorded a cover as the B-side to his single "You Send Me," released in 1957.

The Doors covered the song as only they could. It feels like it could morph into "Break on Through" at any moment. 

"Summertime" goes surf in this version by The Ventures (an instrumental band known for "Hawaii Five-O") from 1963.

Sting performs "Summertime" live in concert with the Dutch Orchestra of the 21st Century in this clip from 1990.

Turkish pianist Fazil Say performs a solo piano version as an encore with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony in January 2013.

Clara Rockmore interprets the song on theremin with her sister on piano! A theremin is an early electronic instrument, patented in 1928, that has been used by everyone from Shostakovich to Led Zeppelin.

Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Lyric Opera of Chicago does not own copyrights to any of the above videos.