Get Ready For Indian Summer, The Meteorological Phenomenon That Everyone Writes Songs About And Then Everyone Else Covers Those Songs A Million Times
Whoa! It’s supposed to be 85 degrees in New York on Sunday, which will be October 9th. Lots of people will be all, “This is the result of global warming!” But it’s not. And not just because global warming is a fiction being espoused by just about every scientist in the world for their own personal profit. The blast of heat we’ll be getting this weekend is regularly occurring autumnal phenomenon. It’s called Indian Summer and you probably already know all this. There have been many songs written about it.
In 1996, William Deedler, a weather historian at the National Weather Service (now that’s an awesome job), had this to say about Indian Summer:
The term “Indian Summer” dates back to the 18th century in the United States. It can be defined as “any spell of warm, quiet, hazy weather that may occur in October or even early November.” Basically, autumn is a transition season as the thunderstorms and severe weather of the summer give way to a tamer, calmer weather period before the turbulence of the winter commences.
The Beat Happening song above is my favorite of the many songs called “Indian Summer.” It was recorded in 1988, and covered by Luna, on the terrific Slide EP, in the ‘90s.
And by Peter Kember (a.k.a. “Sonic Boom,” a.k.a. “Spectrum”) of the great British drone group Spaceman 3.
And then again, just a couple years ago, by Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and the Postal Service.
The country duo Brooks & Dunn made their own song called “Indian Summer” in 2009.
As the Welsh rock band Manic Street Preachers had done two years before.
David Bazan’s group Pedro the Lion included a song called “Indian Summer” on their 2002 album, Control.
Bazan and Gibbard and Beat Happening are all from Washington State. Which is odd, because Indian Summer is traditionally thought of as being a northeastern phenomenon. I guess it’s just a nice, evocative phrase. The kind that was of course irresistible to a guy like Jim Morrison.
Poco recorded a song called “Indian Summer,” too, in 1977. And the Doors and Poco were both from L.A. And there’s certainly no such thing as Indian Summer in Southern California. It never even rains there.
But it’s catching, apparently, the impetus to write songs called “Indian Summer.” Joe Walsh, who was in the Eagles with Poco’s Timothy B. Schmidt, wrote one for his 1978 album, But Seriously Folks…
Even England’s contribution to mellow Southern-California rock, America, have a song called “Indian Summer.” Though theirs wasn’t recorded until 2007. (Did you know that America had a new album come out in 2007? Do you know why they did?)
The derivation of the term “Indian Summer” is something of a mystery. Theories abound, and many of them, as you might have guessed, have an ugly edge. As Deedler writes:
[P]ossibilities include; the Indians made use of the dry, hazy weather to attack the whites before the hard winter set in; that this was the season of the Indian harvest; or, that the predominant southwest winds that accompanied the Indian Summer period were regarded by the Indians as a favor or “blessing” from a “god” in the desert Southwest. Another idea, of a more prejudicial origin, was that possibly the earliest English immigrants equated Indian Summer to “fools” Summer, given the reliability of the resulting weather.
The Texas-born blues guitarist Chris Whitley, who you used to see like every other day in the East Village until he died in 2005, included a song called “Indian Summer” on his 1998 album, Dirt Floor.
Which musician and East Village bar-owner Gavin Degraw covered on his 2009 album, Free, and would often play it in concert before he was assaulted on Houston Street this past August.
The most famous song called “Indian Summer,” though, was written by Victor Herbert in 1919 and has become a jazz standard. It was Count Basie’s favorite song, according to Sarah Vaughan.
Many, many, many people have recorded this song. Jack Dorsey:
And Joe Dassin, a Brooklyn-born singer/songwriter who led a very interesting life, and who gave the song an absolutely incredible prelude when he performed it on French television in 1977.