Originally from the opera Porgy and Bess (1935), with music by George Gershwin and lyrics by DuBose Heyward, this song has become one of the most popular of jazz songs.

Lyrics

Summertime
And the livin’ is easy,
Fish are jumpin’,
And the cotton is high.
Oh, your daddy’s rich,
And your ma is good lookin’,
So hush, little baby,
Don’ yo’ cry.

One of these mornin’s
You goin’ to rise up singin’,
Then you’ll spread yo’ wings
An’ you’ll take to the sky.
But till that mornin’,
There’s a-nothin’ can harm you
With Daddy and Mammy
Standin’ by.

Background

Gershwin began composing the song in December 1933, attempting to create his own spiritual in the style of the African American folk music of the period. Gershwin had completed setting DuBose Heyward’s poem to music by February 1934, and spent the next 20 months completing and orchestrating the score of the opera Porgy and Bess.

The song is a lullaby sung multiple times throughout Porgy and Bess, once in each act, by two different characters. It was recorded for the first time by Abbie Mitchell on 19 July 1935, with George Gershwin playing the piano and conducting the orchestra.

Performances

One of the reasons this song has become so popular is that it can be sung in so many ways – everything from this “straight” performance from the 1959 movie version of the opera…

… to this totally idiosyncratic, cathartic version by Janis Joplin: