On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenge of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post every day (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be… legendary!
Sarah Vaughan – Summertime (1950)
” 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 on which the opera was based, although the song is also co-credited to Ira Gershwin by ASCAP.
Our stay in the US continues and we’re back in the world of jazz for today’s number. Written in 1934 for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess, the song Summertime would come to be recorded by hundreds of artists in the decades that followed. The play itself was considered controversial due to black stereotypes but the songs were embraced in the years that followed. Considered one of the best versions of Summertime is this cover by jazz singer, Sarah Vaughan, who brought a new dimension to the song.
The original opera story told of Porgy, a black disabled beggar, who tried to help Bess. She has two problems, one being a drug dealer and the other being her violent lover. In Summertime Sarah Vaughan sings of better days than the premise to the story. The lyrics speak of the safety to be found with parents and indicates that the family are prosperous. The narrator longs to spread their wings and be free, to experience the world but for now they remain safe and untainted by the outside world.
I wasn’t familiar with Sarah Vaughan or the opera Porgy and Bess prior to today but did enjoy Summertime. It has the sense of the calm before the storm about it. The outside world is made to sound like a dangerous place and for the time being all is well but that is unlikely to last, such is life. I’ll have to listen to other versions of the song for comparison but this effort from Sarah Vaughan sounds like it will be hard to eclipse.
Favourite song so far: