The Paul McCartney Project

Summertime

Written by George Gershwin

Album This song officially appears on the CHOBA Á CCCP Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1988
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Summertime” is an aria composed in 1934 by George Gershwin for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. The lyrics are by DuBose Heyward, the author of the novel Porgy on which the opera was based, although the song is also co-credited to Ira Gershwin by ASCAP.

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“. 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“. 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.

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. 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.

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.

Analysis

Lyrics

Heyward’s inspiration for the lyrics was the southern folk spiritual-lullaby “All My Trials“, of which he had Clara sing a snippet in his play Porgy. The lyrics have been highly praised by Stephen Sondheim. Writing of the opening line, he says

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.

Music

Musicologist K. J. McElrath wrote of the song:

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.

While in his own description, Gershwin did not use any previously composed spirituals in his opera, Summertime is often considered an adaptation of the African American spiritual “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child“, which ended the play version of Porgy. Alternatively, the song has been proposed as an amalgamation of that spiritual and the Ukrainian Yiddish lullaby Pipi-pipipee. The Ukrainian-Canadian composer and singer Alexis Kochan has suggested that some part of Gershwin’s inspiration may have come from having heard the Ukrainian lullaby, “Oi Khodyt Son Kolo Vikon” (“A Dream Passes By The Windows“) at a New York City performance by Alexander Koshetz’s Ukrainian National Chorus in 1929 (or 1926).

Paul McCartney recorded “Summertime” in 1987 to appear on his Choba B CCCP album; from the liner notes of this album:

This George Gershwin song was integrated into rock ‘n’ roll by that most notorious of rock’s outsiders, Gene Vincent. Stateside, Vincent was never afforded the same kind of God-like status he enjoyed in France and Britain due to the fact that his uncompromising rough-edge working class image was out of favour in an environment where squeaky-clean Fabian and Frankie Avalon dominated. As with Little Richard, Paul’s friendship with Vincent stems from those days when The Beatles took second billing to the American rocker.

Last updated on September 2, 2016

Lyrics

Summertime
And the living is easy
Fish are jumpin'
And the cotton is high

Your daddy's rich
And your mama's good lookin'
So hush little baby
Don't you cry

One of these mornin's
You're gonna rise up singin'
You're gonna spread your wings
And take to the sky

But til that mornin'
Ain't nothin' gonna harm you
So hush little baby now
Don't you cry

One of these mornin's
You're gonna rise up singin'

One of these mornin's
You're gonna rise up singin'
You're gonna spread your wings
And you'll take to the sky

But til that mornin'
Ain't nothin' can harm you
So hush little baby now
Don't you cry

With your daddy & your mammy
Standin' by

Officially appears on


CHOBA Á CCCP

Official album • Released in 1991

4:58 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Producer, Vocal
Mick Green:
Guitar
Chris Whitten:
Drums
Mick Gallagher:
Piano
Peter Henderson:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Jul 20, 1987
Studio:
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK

Session Mixing:
Jul 22, 1987
Studio:
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK

Bootlegs


Tug Of War Rehearsal

Unofficial album

9:38 • Studio rehearsal

Recording:
Oct 30, 1980
Studio:
Pugin's Hall


It's Now Or Never (The Complete Russian Sessions)

Unofficial album • Released in 1990

4:51 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Producer, Vocal
Mick Green:
Guitar
Chris Whitten:
Drums
Mick Gallagher:
Piano
Peter Henderson:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Jul 20, 1987
Studio:
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK

Session Mixing:
Jul 22, 1987
Studio:
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK


Oobu Joobu Part 7

Unofficial album • Released in 1995

4:15 • Radio show


The Soundcheck Songs Vol. 2

Unofficial album • Released in 1997

4:08 • Soundcheck


Let'Em Out Vol. 3 - Outtakes & Upgrades

Unofficial album • Released in 2010

Alternate takeA1 • Part of 1st "Choba B CCCP" medley used for promotional purposes.

Session Recording:
Jul 20, 1987
Studio:
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK

Session Mixing:
Aug 20, 1987


Live performances

“Summertime” has been played in 2 soundchecks.


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