Summer Wind was originally released in Germany as "Der Sommerwind" and written by Heinz Meier and German language lyrics by Hans Bradtke in 1965. When Johnny Mercer heard this haunting love song by Danish singer Grethe Ingmann who had also recorded the song in her native language as "Sommervind", he rewrote it in English staying true to the original metaphor of the European sirocco winds signaling the end of summer. The song was first recorded in America by Wayne Newton and later by Bobby Vinton and Perry Come but it wasn’t until 1966 when Frank Sinatra made it his own that the song reached number one on the charts. It was initially included in his album, Strangers in the Night, which would be the last recording Sinatra made with the composer Nelson Riddle and his orchestra. Fifty years later Andrew Heller brought the song to life on his CD, Sinatra My Way, recorded with Christopher Riddle, the son of the late composer and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra.
Andrew Heller reflects on Summer Wind and why it is one of the songs of his heart.
Why did you decide to include Summer Wind on Sinatra, My Way?
It was one of Sinatra’s signature songs. He almost always sang it when he appeared in concert. It is a beautiful song and a simple song. The lyrics stick in your head and the music stays with you as well. Also the lyrics tell a story and are uplifting. I am passionate about singing songs that make people smile and lift them up. When I sing I tell a story and hope that it brings wonderful memories to the audience as they hear the familiar words.
What do you like most about Summer Wind?
I like this song because it is easy to get into the listener’s head and it is easy to get into the story of the song. When I sing I imagine the man whose love has returned to him and him trying to win her back. I become part of the song. I like telling a story musically. I like the romance of this song.
Talk to me about your style in this recording.
When I decided to do this recording I wanted to make it a tribute but not an impersonation. I wanted to take the songs and make them mine. Do it my way to use a phrase that Frank liked.
What did you admire most about Sinatra’s style?
He was the best storytelling vocalist there was. He never sang a song the same way twice. It was about how he felt and what he was trying to say to the audience every time he performed. He might change a word or change his phrasing – just slightly but he never sang a song the same way twice. He knew how to draw the audience in to the lyrics with his phrasing and his voice. I admire great vocalists who are also great storytellers. Some of the best who come to mind in addition to Sinatra are Elvis, Marty Robbins, Pavarottiand Willie Nelson.
Why did you decide to record with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra?
Nelson Riddle was a brilliant arranger. They do not make composers like him anymore – there is no call for the big bands and orchestras but Riddle as an arranger was very clever at making the music talk. His arrangements really contributed to the story and we were fortunate to obtain the original arrangements from his son Christopher. He worked very closely with us on this recording. Christopher pointed out that his father always had a hidden melody in his arrangements. Once you know to listen for it, it really stands out.
It’s been 50 years since Sinatra first recorded Summer Wind. Why do you think it has stood the test of time?
The lyrics never get old. The story is a human one and people can relate to it. These songs of the Great American Songbook are like Shakespeare. The feelings and emotions are universal and stand the test of time. The songs are not only about love but about the way we live our lives and the things we hold dear and believe in. That’s why I enjoy singing them and that’s why people enjoy hearing them again and again.
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