Summer Songs: Summertime

I’ve long been a sucker for those Red, Hot and Blue albums. Not only are they generally great compilations, but they aid AIDS research.

At some point, I purchased By George & Ira: Red Hot on Gershwin, which I was quite fond of. Some critics complained about the multiple versions of a few songs, but I love the way Nina Simone’s version of I Loves You Porgy segues into Bill Evans’ instrumental take, e.g.

There are four versions of Summertime. The first is by an unlikely participant on this mostly jazz album: Janis Joplin [listen], who, according to one reviewer, “will certainly get the listener’s attention as she twists and turns the lyrics in a raspy interpretation.” Of course, as it’s probably the first version of the song I owned, from Cheap Thrills, the Big Brother and the Holding Company album, I have a particular fondness for it. Of course, she died in 1970 at the age of 27 from a drug overdose.

Though a quite different take, I also loved the Billy Stewart version [listen]. I realize it’s the trilling of the tongue bit that I found so entrancing (and one of my former co-workers found so irritating; she wouldn’t allow me to play it if she were around). His “Summertime” was a Top 10 hit on both the pop and R&B charts in 1966. He died in a car crash in 1969 at the age of 32.

A more traditional jazz version came from The Stan Getz Quartet [listen]. Getz died in 1991 at the age of 64 from liver cancer.

Charlie “Bird” Parker [listen] performs the final version of the song. He too died young, at the age of 34. “The official causes of death were lobar pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer but Parker also had an advanced case of cirrhosis and had had a heart attack.”

The summer songs are over, as the season begins to fade…

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