Song Notes: Motherless Child & Summertime

SongNotes: A Long Way From Home
Motherless Child and Summertime
and Eye on the Sparrow

While the snow covered Lake Shore Drive and we talked about going to war. Studs sang me Eye on the Sparrow—the song Mahalia sang. “You should sing that,” he said.

From my 2008 blog:

Mahalia Jackson

I learned Eye on the Sparrow in memory of Studs Terkel and his friendship with Mahalia Jackson. I sing it in In Old Chicago and other concerts with joyful abandon!

In my show Tough Broads & Tender Lasses: Songs of Resilience, I also sing Motherless Child and Summertime. Mahalia performed them together, which puts a very different spin on the Gershwin classic. Listen here:

Many of us have Ella and jazz in mind when we hear Summertime. Listen to Ella Fitzgerald here:

Winifred Giebel

Eve, the woman hosting my concert this week at Cliff Dwellers, told me she always sang Summertime as a lullaby. But I think Summertime as a torch ballad, the way my mother sang it. Deep and soulful. It was her summer anthem on our evening walks to the lake. She was lost somewhere when she sang that song. As a young girl I tried to see what she saw; a sacred mystery to my child’s ears.

I took my Mom to the Lyric Opera in 2014 to see Porgy and Bess. I was her guest. She’d bought tickets that year. It was one of our last grand outings together.

1899 Arrangement “Motherless Child” by William E. Barton, D.D.

Motherless Child Traditional Spiritual
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
a long way from home, a long way from home.

Sometimes I feel like an eagle in the wind
Sometimes I feel like an eagle in the wind
Sometimes I feel like an eagle in the wind
A long way from home

Summertime By George and Ira Gershwin
And the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’
And the cotton, the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich
And your mamma’s good lookin’
So hush, little baby
Don’t you cry

One of these mornings
You’re gonna rise up singing
You’re gonna spread your wings
And take to the sky
But til that morning
there’s nothing can harm you
With daddy and mammy standing by

Eye on the Sparrow
By C.D. Martin / Charles Gabriel / Gene Bartlett

Why should I feel discouraged,
Why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely,
And long for heaven, heaven and home,
When, when Jesus is my portion,
My constant Friend is He;
Oh, oh-oh, his eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watched, watched it over me.
I sing because I’m happy (happy)
I sing because I’m free (free free free)
For His eye, his eye is on the sparrow,
And I know, I know He watches over me.

“With at least 25,000 versions, Porgy and Bess’s opening aria, Summertime, is the most covered song in the world. Written in 1934, Summertime was one of the first compositions George Gershwin worked on for his brand-new opera Porgy and Bess.”
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