It’s the end of summer, and time to put away the Indian madras for another year. Hope you had a great three months; mine was certainly a summer to remember: the romance of a lifetime (kindled at J. Press of all places), and a new hobby-obsession I’ll be writing about soon.

“Indian summer” refers not just to the meteorological phenomenon (which actually occurs in fall), nor to wearing madras for three months of the year. It’s also the name of a haunting tune by the operetta composer Victor Herbert, a standard that has been recorded by pop vocalists and jazz musicians alike.

I’ve enjoyed singing it at the piano for many years; the initial chord change from G to D+ providing much of the charm. But the lyrics are also poignant while extremely economical. And that’s not easy: As I recall, the lyrics were added after Herbert’s death, and not a single note of the melody could be altered to accompany the words. It took lyricist Al Dubin several weeks, but he finally came up with this:

Summer, you old Indian summer
You’re the tear that comes after
June-time’s laughter

You see so many dreams that don’t come true
Dreams we fashioned when summertime was new

You are here to watch over
Some heart that is broken
By a word that somebody left unspoken

You’re the ghost of a romance in June
Going astray
Fading too soon
That’s why I say

Farewell, to you Indian summer

Here are two renditions of the tune, one from 1939 and one from 1959. You might also like to check out versions by Coleman Hawkins and Maynard Ferguson.

Fall programming starts tomorrow. Happy Labor Day. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD