Was George Gershwin's world hit "Summertime" really based on a Ukrainian lullaby?

Could an American composer really have written his biggest hit based on a Ukrainian lullaby? And if so, how did he learn about it? We offer to study this topic thoroughly.

What is the relationship between George Gershwin's hit song "Summertime" and the Ukrainian lullaby "Oh sleep walks near the windows"?

"Summertime." и "Oh, there's sleep at the window." - the titles of these two world-famous works are often seen side by side. The point is that their opening lines are very similar to each other. Too similar. But is the world George Gershwin's hit was based on Ukrainian lullaby? Today we will try to figure it out, and also give some curious facts that you may not have known before.

The story and success of "Summertime"

Cover of George Gershwin's "Summertime."
Cover of George Gershwin's "Summertime."

"Summertime." - one of the most famous and frequently recorded works not only in the career of the George Gershwinbut also in history as a whole. It was born in the distant 1935 - the American composer wrote it especially for his opera. "Porgy and Bess.". At first, the opera was not a success, and neither was the composition itself. Fame fell on Gershwin's brainchild only decades later, after the musician's death. And "Summertime" contributed to a great extent to this!

Subsequently, the song became a colossal success among listeners. Not surprisingly, many artists started recording their interpretations. There are over 60 thousands versions of this work! And this is only officially, i.e. in reality these figures are much higher. Summertime" recordings are popular among collectors, and the most valuable version is considered to be the one recorded on the "Summertime" album. Elloy Fitzgerald и by Louis Armstrong.

Thanks to such hype around the song, "Summertime" performed by different artists periodically topped the US charts again and again Billboard. But what is the reason for such a frenzy around an old work that did not initially claim to be a hit? The fact is that years after the first opera. "Porgy and Bess." a lot of people have started comparing "Summertime." with the Ukrainian lullaby "Oy goes sleep under the windows". As a result, all these comparisons gave rise to many legends and even grew into a real cult.

What do you have in common with "Oh, there's a dream at the window"?

Art Month and Girl
"The Month and the Girl."

"Oh, there's sleep at the window." - a famous Ukrainian lullaby, which, thanks to a hit song. George Gershwin is well known all over the world. It doesn't take a special musical ear to notice that the opening phrases and melody of these pieces are very similar!

But this raises a very logical question: could the American composer really have written his biggest hit based on a Ukrainian lullaby? And if so, how did he find out about it? We propose to study this topic thoroughly.

Could George Gershwin have been inspired by a Ukrainian lullaby

The great composer George Gershwin
The great composer George Gershwin

In theory. George Gershwin may indeed have been inspired by a Ukrainian lullaby. But no more than that. If you listen carefully to both works, it becomes obvious that apart from the opening lines, they have absolutely nothing in common.

It is generally believed that the inspiration for "Summertime" came from the song "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child." - a so-called traditional spirituals hymn. Spirituals - is the spiritual music of African-American Protestants. Subsequently, it had a great influence on jazz. And such borrowing seems more reasonable and possible than plagiarising a Ukrainian lullaby.

However, Gershwin may actually have borrowed a small fragment from the "Oh, there's sleep at the window.". If one delves into his family tree, one finds that his ancestors were immigrants from Russia. This confirms the fact that the future composer could have learnt the Ukrainian lullaby in early childhood. Or from his parents, to whom it was certainly sung in their childhood.

Also, if you listen to a Jewish lullaby. "Pipi-pipipee" and compare it to the Ukrainian one, you can find a lot of similarities. This multiplies the chance that George Gershwin could actually hear the melody that would eventually form the basis of the "Summertime.".

One last thing

Composer George Gershwin
Composer George Gershwin

Let's summarise. Did you hear George Gershwin a melody from a Ukrainian lullaby, which ended up being repeated in his hit song "Summertime."? Most likely, yes. Could he have borrowed it? It is quite possible that some fragments simply popped up in the composer's memory when writing his own work. Nevertheless, it can't be called plagiarism. And in general - the works are completely different, so it is pointless to try to compare them. Nevertheless, "Summertime" was, is and will be one of the most popular compositions, whose age is close to a century.


Please enter your comment!
please enter your name here

49 - = 43

'Pretty Woman With A Secret': Debbie Harry's 'Blondie' Secrets She Long Hid From Fans

Debbie Harry: facts about her personal life and career Debbie Harry is unfortunately a rarity: a surviving 78-year-old punk scene icon whose career developed during the era of...

Yuri Antonov - The Hardest Idol: Antics and Scandals That Made Producers Walk Away From the Master

Yuri Antonov: character, scandals, antics Recently, producer Sergey Lavrov said that Yuri Antonov is the most difficult, capricious and wayward maestro of the domestic variety, with whom he...

Ekaterina Batrakova: "A good half of academic musicians listen to good rock"

Ekaterina Batrakova - interview: about career and plans for the future The correspondent of Fuzz Music talked to the rock singer Katya Batrakova, whose songs have repeatedly hit the...

What "Thriller" hottie sued Jackson for.

Ola Ray is the girl from Michael Jackson's "Thriller." The sinister dancing zombies, Michael Jackson's brilliant choreography and, of course, the song itself combined to make 1982's "Thriller"...

The Whole USSR Danced It: The Twist - Why It Was So Wanted To Be Banned

Twist: history, facts, scandals, popularity in the USSR and the USA If you've watched Pulp Fiction or live performances by rock 'n' roll icons (including "The King" Elvis Presley), you...

The coolest producers in rock according to Fuzz Music magazine

The best producers in rock Often music lovers underestimate the role of the producer in the career of their favourite band or performer. And for nothing, because it is from how good this person...

'I'm embarrassed for America': why Hendrix mocked his American counterparts

Why Jimi Hendrix had no respect for American rockers The British Invasion changed everything: all boundaries were erased, rock 'n' roll evolved to become something beautifully intimidating, rumbling, energetic,...

"Pavarotti himself wasn't squeamish" - world stars who got into trouble over phonograms

World stars who sang with a backing track There's nothing wrong with a phonogram - sometimes it's just necessary, as an artiste may be performing in a giant stadium, and...

The sad stories of the stars of Motown Records

Motown Records artists and their sad stories Motown Records, a label known for great tunes and truly "killer" leads, has launched a number of dizzying musical careers. If Michael ...

Pete Townsend's first favourite band, which had a huge influence on him

Why Pete Townsend loves The Rolling Stones so much Every great musician has his or her - favourite great band. And, as a rule, getting to know them has had an...

Not just a musician: what Viktor Tsoi worked as during his life

Viktor Tsoi's works beyond music Viktor Tsoi is one of the key figures of Russian rock. His work with the band Kino is practically a folk treasure, and his fanbase...

History of Soviet cassette recorders

Magnetophones in the USSR Listening to music has always been an interesting activity, but much more curious was the history of certain devices used to play tracks. В...