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"Summertime" lyrics are by DuBose Heyward, the author of the novel Porgy on which the opera was based, although the song is also co-credited to Ira Gershwin by ASCAP. It was recorded for the first time by Abbie Mitchell on July 19, 1935, with George Gershwin playing the piano and conducting the orchestra (on: George Gershwin Conducts Excerpts from Porgy & Bess, Mark 56 667).
There are over 25,000 recordings of "Summertime". In September 1936, a recording by Billie Holiday was the first to hit the US pop charts, reaching no. 12. The most commercially successful version was by Billy Stewart, who reached no. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, and no. 7 on the R&B chart in 1966; his version reached no. 39 in the UK and no.13 in Canada. Janis Joplin's version with Big Brother and the Holding Company has been highly praised.