On February 26th, Willie Nelson will release what is essentially a musical acceptance speech with his latest album, a tribute to the timeless songs of George and Ira Gershwin called Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin.
In this exclusive behind-the-scenes video of the making of the album, Nelson explains that the recording is his way of saying thank you to the Library of Congress for honoring the 82-year-old singer-songwriter with the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song last November. Nelson made his first extensive foray into material from the Great American Songbook with his phenomenally successful 1978 LP Stardust.
Titled after one of the most memorable tunes from the Gershwins’ opera Porgy and Bess, the Summertime LP contains 11 of the Gershwins’ most enduring standards, and includes guest appearances from Sheryl Crow (on “Embraceable You”) and Cyndi Lauper (“Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”).
Narrowing down the list of tunes for the collection was a difficult task for Nelson, but he admits he had a little help from his Frank Sinatra, with many of the songs “borrowed” from the albums of his favorite singer.
Nelson’s longtime producer Buddy Cannon and co-producer (and keyboard legend) Matt Rollings join him in the video. Rollings notes that the Grammy-winning Stardust demonstrated the country musician could handle a wide range of musical genres.
“He is equally at home singing ‘On the Road Again’ and ‘Someone to Watch Over Me,'” Rollings says. “It feels like it’s time for the world to be reminded that this is a deep well of amazing music, to have someone like Willie sing them. It just seems the perfect match.”
“When I was just a small guy, I remember hearing all these great Gershwin songs,” says Nelson. “Ira and George Gershwin were just these fantastic writers who wrote some of the greatest songs ever.”
Other Gershwin tunes on the collection include “But Not for Me,” “I Got Rhythm,” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.” Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin is available for pre-order at iTunes.