” Yes, the heart of the world weighs heavy
With the helplessness of tears
For the man cut down in a Texas town
In the summer of his years
The summer of his years
And we who stay mustn’t ever lose
The victories that he won
For wherever man look to freedom back
His soul goes riding on
Lord, his soul goes riding on”
Lyrics from The Summer of His Years
Recorded on December 2, 1963 by Connie Francis
The most vivid, impactful memory I have of the John F. Kennedy assassination would come a couple weeks after the fateful November day in 1963. I was seven years old and living in Texas when shock, confusion and grief enveloped the world on November 22, 1963. The news of JFK’s assassination was announced on the loud speaker at school, and we were told to go home to our families and pray. As we sat in our den watching, crying, and praying, it seemed impossible that our President of the United States was killed, and that the two most famous children in the world lost their father.
Most everyone will remember and pay tribute to John Fitzgerald Kennedy, as we mark the 50 th anniversary of his death. The stories of what people remember 50 years later are as heart wrenching now as the actual events of the day were in 1963. Memories of the assassination and the funeral are etched in my brain, but what I remember most is the album my Father bought a couple weeks later.
It was titled, The Summer of His Years and was recorded by Connie Francis. The album included the JFK tribute single, The Summer of His Years , and came boxed with a memorial book of the John F. Kennedy family, the assassination, and the funeral. The tribute song was written by Herb Kretzmer and David Lee. Many radio stations in the United States refused to play the song because they felt it was a distasteful capitalization on a world tragedy. Although the song hit No. 46 on Billboard charts, Connie Francis did not benefit from the sales of the single or the album. She donated all the proceeds from the sales to the family of police officer J. D. Tippet , also gunned down in Dallas that same day.
Millicent Martin first performed The Summer of His Years on the BBC tribute to John F. Kennedy during the show That Was the Week That Was . The soundtrack to that show was released in the United States. Since then, Kate Smith, Mahalia Jackson, and Bobby Rydell have covered the JFK tribute song.
My Father played that album and gazed with grief at the memorial book for years to come. I was almost too young to understand the news and the impact that day would have on history. But, I was not too young to see how that JFK tribute song affected my Father in the most intense way. It was only because of seeing my Father deal with his grief through that album that I realized life would be changed forever. If this news brought such sadness into our home, it was almost unbearable to think of what it did to the Kennedy family that we saw on television. My first experience with death, funerals, and grief was healed with music, just as it did for my Father; just as it did for the world.
In memory of the 35th President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy
May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963
“My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.”
John F. Kennedy