Porgy and Bess, starring Audra McDonald, Norm Lewis and David Alan Grier, is filled to the brim with classic songs by George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward, including “I Got Plenty of Nothing” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” But the most famous song from the show, of course, is is the beautiful musical lament “Summertime.” The song became one of the most covered tunes in the history of recorded music, easily transitioning from opera to jazz to musical theater. While we could not sample all 30,000 renditions, Broadway.com picked five favorites to salute the return of Porgy and Bess to Broadway. Click below to escape winter and enjoy all “Summertime” has to offer.
Iconic rocker Janis Joplin made “Summertime” a personal anthem, and her cover is arguably the most well known version of the song. Joplin sang it at Woodstock in 1969, and it was the last song she ever performed live before her untimely death in 1970. Check out this soulful version from a live performance in Stockholm in 1969.
During the third season of American Idol, future Broadway star Fantasia (The Color Purple) separated herself from the pack with a rendition of “Summertime” as slow and beautiful as a warm July day. She went on to perform it again at the finale and record her version of the song. Check out what Randy Jackson called “the single best idol performance of any season.”
Jazz chanteuse Billie Holiday was the first major recording artist to cover “Summertime.” Nine months after the show opened, Holiday recorded a version that would skyrocket to number 12 on pop charts. Though no live video exists of Holiday performing the song, click below to hear this groundbreaking rendition.
Jazz singer Billy Stewart brought his signature scat style to “Summertime” in 1966. Stewart’s version was the most commercially successful, reaching number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Take a look at a singer who brings out all the fun the summer has to offer.
“Doin’ Time” by Sublime
Sublime released a loose cover of “Summertime” titled “Doin’ Time” in 1997. Though few of the original lyrics remain, the song does sample from jazz flutist Herbie Mann’s live recording. “Doin’ Time” was Sublime’s only song to break into the Billboard Hot 100. Check out an alternative version to the Gershwin classic!