For more than 300 years, Charleston’s evocative beauty has inspired painters, poets, playwrights and musicians.
In 1934, Tin Pan Alley maestro George Gershwin decamped to the bohemian wilds of Folly Beach, a windswept island located a short ferry ride south of Charleston. There, he whiled away the summer in a shoebox-sized rental cottage complete with mosquitoes and an upright piano.
By then, Gershwin had a decade of celebrity to his name and a string of popular hits, including I Got Rhythm and ‘S Wonderful. For the Brooklyn-born composer accustomed to the bright lights of Broadway and flocks of adoring fans, the lolling Lowcountry lifestyle was like functioning on the dark side of the moon.
But Gershwin did not land on Folly by mistake. He arrived by train at the invitation of a Charlestonian named DuBose Heyward, author of the novel Porgy.
Heyward’s bestselling tale of Charleston’s “Catfish Row” captivated Gershwin, and he wrote to Heyward with the suggestion of setting Porgy “to music.”
During their subsequent summer of collaboration on Folly Beach, the unlikely pair absorbed the joyous bedlam of church revivals and dulcet tones of Gullah spirituals, which Gershwin expertly melded into the score of Porgy and Bess.
The result was a blend of jazz, blues, gospel music and traditional opera that charted new musical territory when the landmark folk opera debuted in 1935.
Perhaps Gershwin’s greatest gift from that fateful summer is the haunting nocturne aria Summertime, the most melodic love letter to ever penned in honor of Charleston.
We are pleased to present our original interpretation of Summertime as the soundtrack to our visual Love Letter to Charleston.
History remembers DuBose Heyward as a poet and playwright, but the native Charlestonian worked as an insurance agent while he wrote the novel Porgy.
If Charleston can inspire a salesman to revolutionize literature, what will the destination do for you?
Come. Find your inspiration in Charleston.