Edwin Dubose Heyward wrote the novel Porgy in 1925. It’s the story of a crippled beggar living in the slums of Charleston, South Carolina. It’s been called “the first major southern novel to portray blacks without condescension.” Dubose Heyward’s wife Dorothy began working on a stage version of the novel and the play Porgy opened on Broadway in 1927. It was a great success.

In 1935 George Gershwin composed the opera Porgy and Bess which included the song Summertime. The lyrics to Porgy and Bess were written by Heyward with some help from George’s brother Ira.

There are many wonderful versions of the song including Ella Fitzgerald’s and Billie Holiday’s but the version by Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company is my favorite. They recorded it for their second album, Cheap Thrills. The album was originally titled Sex, Dope and Cheap Thrills and the cover was supposed to be a photo of the band naked in bed. Columbia Records nixed both ideas but the cover they went with, drawn by R. Crumb, is one of the great examples of album artwork.

It’s summertime, and the living is easy
Fish are jumping and the cotton is high
Your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’
So hush little baby, Don’t you cry

One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing
And you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky
But ’til that morning, there ain’t nothing can harm you
With Daddy and Mammy standing by

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