The Great Composer Quiz – July 19, 2020
Time’s up, pencils down, the Great Composer who wrote a work which was first recorded on this date, July 19, 1935, by Abbey Mitchell, who ten weeks later sang the aria as Clara in Porgy & Bess. Gershwin conducted the orchestra for the recording, which was not released by the Gershwin estate until 1974. The song has been covered over 60,000 times (67,590 according to the The Guinness Book of World Records) by artists as varied as Helen Jepson, the Met Opera lyric soprano who released the first record of Summertime, and Janis Joplin who recorded Summertime with Big Brother and the Holding Company.
Billie Holiday (pictured) was the first to place it on the Billboard charts at #12 in 1935. Al Green croons the blues into it (“And the cotton is high!”). Diahann Carroll and The Andre Previn Trio play it at a cocktail tempo.
Among the great and debatable interpretations are records by Willie Nelson, Ethel Ennis, Frank Sinatra, Brian Wilson, Annie Lennox, Aaron Neville, Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong and Sonny & Cher and Joe & Eddie and Sam & Dave and Dickie Loader & The Blue Jeans, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, Barbara Hendricks with Katia & Marielle Labeque, Perry Como with Mitchell Ayres and His Orchestra; artists as different as Heifetz to Goulet, Brainbox to Pete Seeger, Cathy Berberian to Chet Atkins, everyone made their own recording of Summertime, including Mahalia Jackson, Kiri Te Kanawa, Cab Calloway, Olivia Newton-John, Charlotte Church, The Front Porch String Band, The Four Freshmen, The Righteous Brothers and the righteous Billy Stewart who strutted Gershwin’s song to its brassy high water mark #10 in 1966 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
To see Gershwin’s great national song sung with uniquely American flare, click here.