Sarah Vaughan; “The Green Leaves of Summer”



I absolutely love the singing and the voice of the famous jazz singer Sarah Vaughan (1924-1990).

Some find her songs to be treacly. There seems to be something to this criticism — as it applies to some, but by no means all, of her songs — but I love her nonetheless.

It is my nonprofessional opinion that her deep, rich voice cannot be equaled.

My favorite Sarah Vaughan song — of a great many — is “The Green Leaves of Summer,” which is on YouTube at





Regarding the lyrics, below, I have interpolated my own comments on what they mean. Many readers of this post will say, does he think I can’t read? I don’t need to have the lyrics interpreted for me.

I have interpolated comments nevertheless — for the sale of the many foreign readers of this post who may not be familiar with English jargon.

By the way, I think that the “The Green Leaves of Summer” is a great song.



— Roger W. Smith

     December 2016


Addendum: To see how a group can mess up a great, sentimental song such as this one, listen to the version by The Springfields (at the same YouTube link). This version is treacly, and the arrangement stinks.




The Green Leaves of Summer


Woo, woo,
A time to be reaping [reap: to harvest crops]
A time to be sowing [sow: to plant crops]
The green leaves of summer [tree leaves; green in summer; change color in fall, fall off trees in winter]

Are calling me home
Twas so good to be young then [“Twas”: it was]
In the season of plenty [season of plenty; things were growing in abundance; the earth was fertile, like a woman]
When the catfish were jumping [catfish: fresh water fish; jumping — the fish are so plentiful they jump out of the water; times are good]

As high as the sky [the fish jump as high as the sky]
A time just for planting [time for planting seeds]
A time just for ploughing [a tractor plows the earth to make it ready for planting]
A time to be courting [it’s also the time for “courting,” finding a mate, love; everything is pregnant, ripe]

A girl of your own
Twas so good to be young then [it was good to be young and full of energy and spirits at that time]
To be close to the earth [good to be in close to the earth; one feels it in summertime, and when one is young, one’s body feels full of vigor]
And to stand by your wife [to bond and to have a love object]

At the moment of birth, woo [the earth is producing food; the wife is giving birth]
A time to be reaping [reap: harvest]
A time to be sowing [sow: plant, not only seeds to grow in earth, but also make babies]
A time just for living [the joy of just plain being ALIVE]

A place for to die [the lyrics are the words of someone at end of life recalling the summer days of his young manhood]
Twas so good to be young then
To be close to the earth
Now the green leaves of summer
Are calling me home [“home,” meaning to return to the earth and be buried]

Twas so good to be young then
To be close to the earth
Now the green leaves of summer
Are calling me home

About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. Besides (1), a personal site, he also hosts websites devoted to (2) the author Theodore Dreiser and (3) to the sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim A. Sorokin.
This entry was posted in general interest, music (from the point of view of a listener), my favorite music and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to

  1. elisabethm says:

    Shivers down my spine! I played it twice, what a voice! Some of my favourite Sarah Vaughan songs include “Black Coffee” and “Whatever Lola Wants.” Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks, Elisabeth. Some other songs of hers that I like are “Bali Ha’i” (which she did for a recording of “South Pacific”); Broken-Hearted Melody”; “Happy Talk” (also from the “South Pacific Recording); “Seranata” (a hit of hers from the early Sixties); her version of “Summertime”; “Someone to Watch Over Me”: and “Misty.” Feel free to email me at if you would like me to send you tracks.

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