Image for Gershwin's Summertime: The Song That Conquered the WorldNot currently available on BBC iPlayer

Duration: 1 hour

An intriguing investigation into the extraordinary life of Gershwin's classic composition, Summertime. One of the most covered songs in the world, it has been recorded in almost every style of music - from jazz to opera, rock to reggae, soul to samba. Its musical adaptability is breathtaking, but Summertime also resonates on a deep emotional level too. This visually and sonically engaging film explores the composition's magical properties, examining how this song has, with stealth, captured the imagination of the world.

From its complex birth in 1935 as a lullaby in Gershwin's all-black opera Porgy and Bess, this film traces the hidden history of Summertime, focusing on key recordings, including those by Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin, Mahalia Jackson, Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald. It reveals how musicians have projected their own dreams and desires onto the song, re-imagining Summertime throughout the 20th century as a civil rights prayer, a hippie lullaby, an ode to seduction and a modern freedom song.

Back in the 1930s, Gershwin never dreamt of the global impact Summertime would have. But as this film shows, it has magically tapped into something deep inside us all - nostalgia and innocence, sadness and joy, and our intrinsic desire for freedom. Full of evocative archive footage as well as a myriad versions of Summertime - from the celebrated to the obscure - Searching For Summertime tells the surprising and illuminating tale behind this world-famous song.

Last on

Sat 29 Sep 2012 02:30 BBC Four

  • All American season

    All American season

    This programme is part of All American, a BBC Four season about US culture. You can also watch further programmes from the BBC archives, online and in full, in the All American Collection.

    Go to the BBC Four All American Collection

Credits

Producer
James Maycock
Director
James Maycock
Executive Producer
Jonty Claypole
Narrator
Pauline Black
Writer
James Maycock

Featured in...

  • All American

    A collection of classic BBC programmes about US culture. Available to watch online.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.