Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.
Technically it’s not summer yet.
Crazy, huh? From June 3 through today temps have been in the 80’s or 90’s. But the first official day of summer isn’t until Sunday, June 20.
Since summer started early we’ll do the same with summer-related music. That’s our focus this week. Let’s begin!
The great George Gershwin composed our opener for the operatic “Porgy and Bess.” Gershwin was inspired by a 1926 novel about a Black community in Charleston, South Carolina, that was first made into a Broadway musical and years later a movie.
In order to capture the Southern atmosphere for his composition Gershwin rented a spot in Folly Island, South Carolina, but in the end wrote “Summertime” at home in New York.
Gershwin’s friend Kay Halle spoke with theater historian Robert Kimball:
“George and I had an arrangement with the man at the desk at the Elysee, where I lived. If I was out and George wanted to come in, he could always have the key to my room. One night I came in after a dinner about 11 o’clock, and as I walked up the stairway to my apartment, I heard the piano. I tiptoed in, George turned and saw me, and said, ‘Sit down, I think I have the lullaby.’ I knew he had been working hard to get the lullaby and that he had done several versions that didn’t suit him. And so he sang in this high-wailing voice ‘Summertime,’ and it was exquisite. We looked at each other and the tears were just coursing down my cheeks and I just knew that this was going to be beloved by the world.”
More than 2,000 recordings of “Summertime” have been cranked out, making it one of the most covered music pieces ever. This one has electric keyboardist/arranger Eumir Deodato and guitarist John Tropea. Deodato released the wildly successful instrumental of “Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001) in 1973.
Gershwin never got to see the “Porgy and Bess” play become a big success. He died in 1937.
Time to take a page out of Old Liquors Magazine:
The Rum and Coke is a derivation of a dark Rum, lime, and cola concoction borne out of the aftermath of the Spanish-American War. A few years in the making, Cuba had been at odds with Spanish rule. While the United States had run into some conflict with Spain as well, it had been hesitant to enter the war as recovery from a significantly depressed economy was just being realized. But after the mysterious sinking of a significant American naval ship, the USS Maine, off the coast of Cuba in Havana Harbor, the Spanish-American War commenced for a ten-week period between April and August of 1898.
The United States’ involvement provided a much-needed expeditive boost, resulting in the signing of the Treaty of Paris later that same year; along with Spain’s relinquishment of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines, the United States gained temporary control of Cuba. The Spanish Empire was no more.
Of course, after a years-long battle for the very independence of a nation and its beginning anew, what better cause for celebration? A free-Cuba (or Cuba Libre) movement birthed the drink in Havana in the early 1900s, when, of course, Coca-Cola entered Cuba via the United States and the movement’s namesake, from then on, lived forever in spirit.
BTW, the rum and Coke did NOT make the list of 2020’s best-selling classic cocktails around the globe released by Drinks International (DI), a trade publication for the alcohol industry. Care to guess what was #1?
Can’t do a summer music blog without these guys. The Beach Boys are one of the most critically acclaimed, commercially successful, and widely influential bands of all time. The group had over eighty songs chart worldwide, thirty-six of them US Top 40 hits (the most by an American rock band), four reaching number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The Beach Boys have sold in excess of 100 million records worldwide, making them one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time.
From their 2018 project:
“We didn’t have to lift a finger, all the hard work was done decades ago,” said lyricist and vocalist Mike Love. “It’s amazing, the beauty of this project is that the original vocal performances are used. They took just the vocal parts of the records, lifted them out and then wrote the arrangements around the vocals. The key thing is they didn’t overwhelm them, they complement them perfectly.”
The Beach Boys without the orchestra perform at the WI State Fair’s Main Stage on Saturday, August 14 at 7:30.
This next selection is not a summer song but sure sounds like one. It hit #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1979.
The band plays on October 23 at the Loews Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois.
That’s it for this week.
Have a great spring weekend.
Our closing instrumental was written by Austrian film composer Max Steiner, who also wrote the score for “Casablanca.”
Percy Faith and his orchestra had a #1 single, not in summer, but in February of 1960, and did an uptempo version in 1976. Tons of artists have recorded their own renditions.