Sing Books with Emily, the Blog

Summertime, a Singable Picture Book

Posted on: June 11, 2012

The song SUMMERTIME has become one of my very favorite songs to sing.

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Summertime (from Porgy and Bess)
Words by DuBose Heyward
Music by George Gershwin
Illustrated by Mike Wimmer

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On the subject of the Power of Music, most notably the power of a single song in a Singable Picture Book:

It is fun to note what this Singable Picture Book can lead us to exploring many important subjects, including American Opera, George and Ira Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, Popular Culture, Jazz, African American History, Theatre History, Broadway and even copyright law (and so much more).  It’s downright amazing!

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YouTube offered a host of amazing renditions of this most delicious of songs:

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Ella Fitzgerald, the great, great Ella, sings, “Summertime,” sensual, slow and lush and full of heat:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2bigf337aU

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Nina Simone sings, “Summertime”
A terrific jazz band plays the song for about 2 minutes and 50 seconds before Ms. Simone begins singing her sublime, gorgeous rendition:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmrUrEbaYWE

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Nora Jones sings, “Summertime”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJOtaWyEzaI

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I remember seeing Fantasia Barino sing “Summertime” on American Idol and I had to jump for joy.  It was very exciting:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rOCwVsSW0Y

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The great soprano Kathleen Battle sings, “Summertime”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYlIHI35oak

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CBS Sunday Morning (June 3, 2012) segment about a newly staged version of Porgy and Bess (starring Audra McDonald) talks a bit about the song, “Summertime”:
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7410516n

View the video by clicking the link to the CBS News webpage.

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Info about the song, “Summertime” (from Porgy and Bess) in this wiki article:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summertime_(song)

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Detailed wiki article about the groundbreaking Opera PORGY AND BESS:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porgy_and_Bess

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Porgy and Bess exhibit page on Library of Congress website:
http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/tri008.html

It states, about the SUMMERTIME:

Its tunes have become standards for jazz improvisation, and the lullaby “Summertime” has by now achieved the status of a folk song.

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SUMMERTIME 
Words by DuBose Heyward
Music by George Gershwin 
From PORGY AND BESS

Summertime and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Your daddy’s rich and your mamma’s good lookin’
So hush little baby, don’t you cry.

One of these mornin’s you’re gonna rise up singin’
And you’ll spread your wings and you’ll reach to the sky
But ’til that mornin’ there’s a-nothin’ can harm you
With daddy and mamma standin’ by.

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Walter Rimler, Gershwin biographer, writes about “Summertime”

Walter Rimler, a biographer of George Gershwin, wrote a comment to the post “The Songs We Sang, 2/16/2010″ that the lyrics to the song “Summertime,” from the opera “Porgy and Bess” were written ”…by DuBose Heyward and no one else. These days the publishers add the names of Ira Gershwin and Dorothy Heyward in order to keep the song in copyright. Ira Gershwin outlived DuBose Heyward by 43 years.”
You can find information about Mr. Rimler’s recent book about George Gershwin “George Gershwin: An Intimate Portrait” at this link:
http://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/82fgy6dr9780252034442.html

His books are also available at online booksellers including Amazon, Borders and Barnes&Noble.

NPR’s “Afternoon Magazine” program on station WILL interviewed Walter Rimler on September 17, 2009. The interview can be heard by visiting: http://will.uiuc.edu/media/aftmag090917.mp3

Mr. Walter Rimler graciously wrote the following post so that we could enjoy knowing a little more about this beautiful lullaby:
About Summertime, Walter Rimler

DuBose Heyward was the sole author of the “Summertime” lyric. Lately, the Gershwin publishers have added the names of Ira Gershwin and Dorothy Heyward to its sheet music. But if you look at the original sheet music, it had only DuBose Heyward’s name.

Here is the background.

DuBose Heyward wrote a successful novel entitled Porgy in 1925. George Gershwin read it, loved it, and talked to Heyward about making an opera of it. But that project was shelved, in part because Gershwin decided he was not ready yet to tackle so ambitious a project but also because Dorothy Heyward, DuBose’s wife, a playwright, had been secretly turning the book into a straight dramatic play. She wanted it to be a surprise for her husband. That play, also entitled Porgy, was produced on Broadway and had a very successful run.

In 1933, George Gershwin finally decided he wanted to write the opera, and he and Dubose Heyward got to work. At that point, Ira Gershwin was not involved, although he later joined in and wrote some of the opera’s best lyrics, including “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” But he had nothing to do with “Summertime.” And Dorothy had nothing to do with the opera, now called Porgy and Bess.
Recently, the names of Ira Gershwin and Dorothy Heyward have been added to the sheet music of “Summertime.” This is because the publishers and the Gershwin family want to extend the copyright of the song. George Gershwin died in 1937 (age 38). DuBose Heyward died in 1940 (age 55). Dorothy Heyward died in 1961 (age 71). Ira Gershwin died in 1983 (age 86). Copyrights are good for a certain number of years after the death of the last co-author of the work. If Ira Gershwin is listed as a co-author, the royalties will keep coming in for many more years.

By the way, “Summertime” is the first song lyric that DuBose Heyward ever wrote. His name is not well known these days. For the above-mentioned reasons, it is being replaced wherever possible by Ira Gershwin’s name. Ira Gershwin would never have approved of this. He was a modest man and never claimed credit for anything he hadn’t done. So let’s not forget DuBose Heyward who became, in writing the libretto and so many of the songs in Porgy and Bess, in Stephen Sondheim’s words, “the author of the finest set of lyrics in the history of the American musical theater.”

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Related Posts

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GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK

Singable Picture Books of the Great American Songbook and Michael Feinstein’s Foundation for the Preservation of the Great American Songbook
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2011/09/10/american-songbook-singable-picture-books-and-michael-feinsteins-foundation-for-the-preservation-of-the-great-american-songbook/

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AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH

A list of Singable Picture Books that celebrate February is African American History Month
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/singable-picture-books-celebrating-african-american-history-month/

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Walter Rimler, Gershwin biographer, writes about “Summertime”
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/walter-rimler-gershwin-biographer-writes-about-summertime/

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SUMMER CELEBRATION
Songs for Summer, a List of Summery Singable Picture Books

https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2010/07/15/songs-for-summer-a-list-of-summery-singable-picture-books/

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