[3 September 2010]
George Gershwin’s “Summertime” might be the most frequently recorded song ever covered by female vocalists. There have been thousands of renditions, including classic versions by artists as talented and different as Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin, Ella Fitzgerald, and Joni Mitchell, not to mention male vocal and instrumental musicians by such legends as John Coltrane, Sam Cooke, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, and Brian Wilson. But the finest version in all of its operatic glory must be that done by Leontyne Price. She just lets her jaw drop and wails when the song calls for it and then lets the lullaby softly purr as needed. Price nails every note. Here’s a live version from 1981, almost 30 years after she first performed it before an audience, and Price still sings the song perfectly.