Farewell, Indian Summer

It’s September and time — or almost time — to put away the Indian madras for another year. The term “Indian summer,” incidently, refers not just to a meteorological phenomenon (which actually happens in fall), nor to wearing madras for three or four 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, with 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

There are  many fine renditions in a variety of styles you can check out on YouTube, from Kay Kyser to Coleman Hawkins. — CC

9 Comments on "Farewell, Indian Summer"

  1. 3 button max | September 5, 2011 at 8:10 pm |

    great jacket -and great tune .(and d augmented!!!)- have been–enjoying your blog for some time .
    all the best

  2. Indian summer isn’t until about the 3rd week in Oct – you are way to early in saying goodbye. Indian summer was a term used when settlers feared indian attacks on warm days AFTER the HARVEST.

  3. Vern Trotter | February 8, 2018 at 8:45 pm |

    Indian summer: after the harvest or I have always heard after the first frost. Makes sense to look for Indigenous peoples attacks on a warm day, I guess. Dates from King Phillip’s War in New England, I believe.

  4. According to these comments, it’s time to bid farewell to the term “Indian summer.”

  5. Old School Tie | September 19, 2020 at 2:44 pm |

    Let’s leave everything just as it is, on here at least. Otherwise that would be a Chennai jacket now and I would be about to have a Chennai and Kingfisher…and I do not like the sound of that so much.

  6. Let’s not forget the Door’s “Indian Summer”:


  7. Funny, just watched the Oliver Stone Doors movie the other night.

  8. William Timmins | September 19, 2020 at 11:30 pm |

    Sinatra did a beautiful version of the tune with the Ellington Band in 1968.It features a wonderful solo by the great Johnny Hodges. Tony Bennett also does a beautiful rendition on “Perfectly Frank”, his tribute album to Sinatra.

  9. Grey Flannels | September 20, 2020 at 1:46 pm |

    Eilliam Timmins,
    Why is it so difficult for people to provide links to

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