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Summertime By George Gershwin: The Greatest Cover Song Ever
Is Summertime the Most Covered Song Ever?
Everbody who's anybody in the music world has covered George Gershwin's Summertime at one point or another. From mournful, operatic versions true to the original aria to Janis Joplin's throaty shout-blues to Billy Stewart's exuberant scat, Gershwin's masterpiece from Porgy and Bess has really made the rounds.
This page explores some of the literally hundreds of versions of this song recorded and floating around out there. I've seen the total covers of Summertime officially released listed as high as nearly 3,000, so I'll have plenty to choose from. I'll also reveal my nominee for the single best cover of Summertime ever recorded. If I've missed your favorite version of the song, please let me know and I'll include it.
The Single Best Cover of Summertime, Ever - Seriously, Billy Stewart Owns This Song
Billy Stewart lived a short, hard life but what he did manage to record amazed listeners and inspired many people. This re-imagining of Summertime will leave you smiling and looking for more.
I cannot emphasize enough how much fun this song is and how much better it fits the lyrics than most of the more "authentic" cover versions out there. I've linked to the video, below, so that you can give it a listen. If this is your first introduction to Billy Stewart, lucky you. You've got a sadly short career's worth of treats to explore. Summertime is an excellent place to start.
Billy Stewart's Fantastic Cover of Summertime - Gershwin Never Saw Billy Coming!
The quality on this version of Summertime isn't great, but the video is worth the slightly-muffled Billy Stewart in a giant hat. And his take on the the song helps explain why Summertime is the greatest cover song ever, both because it's so flexible and because so many amazing vocalists have recorded their own versions.
Music Videos for Summertime By George Gershwin
Sharon Jones and Charles Walker start off this star-studded list with a dose of soul. Don't miss Jill Scott and George Benson, who give another fantastic performance with a jazzy scat break in the middle. I've also included an American Idol rendition, to show that people are still covering this song for the masses, and The Zombies who had a hit with the song in 1965. Rene Fleming, Kiri Te Kanawwa, and Leontyne Price give operatic performances more in keeping with the original song. Of course I've included the great Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, as well. A list of great cover versions of Summertime would be incomplete without them. And Miles Davis is here, too, with his instrumental version of the Greatest Cover Song Ever, as is David Garrett and a version on the Bulgarian Gaida.
The Best-Known Version of Summertime - Janis Joplin's Soulful Rendition of the Standard
Is it the irony of Janis Joplin singing a song about being safe and happy someday or is it the obvious feeling with which she sings it that makes this such a powerful cover of Summertime? You be the judge.
Janis Joplin's Mournful Version of Summertime
Tell Me What You Think about Gershwin's Summertime
Does Summertime Move You or Leave You Cold?
Some of the Many Versions of Summertime
Sure, Gershwin's original composition was soaring and operatic, but that's not the only way to sing Summertime. Here are more covers of the song, from the famous to the obscure. Who am I missing? Which is your favorite?
Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong - I told you this was the greatest cover song ever!
Little Charlotte Church stretches her pipes on an opera-worthy take.
Le Trio Gershwin, no less
Sarah Vaughan offers her smooth version.
Scarlett Johansson drawls out a string-heavy, nearly-spoken-word cover.
RenÃ© Franc & Bootleggers offer a sax-heavy jazz version.
Sheet Music for Summertime - And Other Gershwin Favorites
What song would you nominate for the most covered song of all time? Please share!