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George Gershwin

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George Gershwin

George Gershwin
George Gershwin in 1937
Born Jacob Gershvin
(1898-09-26)September 26, 1898
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died July 11, 1937(1937-07-11) (aged 38)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Musical composer, pianist
Years active 1916–37
Parents Moishe Gershowitz
Roza Bruskina
Relatives Ira Gershwin

George Gershwin (; September 26, 1898 – July 11, 1937) was an American Porgy and Bess (1935).

Gershwin studied piano under Charles Hambitzer and composition with film scores until his death in 1937 from a brain tumor.

Gershwin's compositions have been adapted for use in many films and for television, and several became jazz standards recorded in many variations. Many celebrated singers and musicians have covered his songs.


  • Biography 1
    • Early life 1.1
    • Tin Pan Alley 1.2
    • Europe and classical music 1.3
    • Opera 1.4
    • Last years 1.5
  • Musical style and influence 2
  • Recordings and film 3
  • Compositions 4
  • Legacy 5
    • Estate 5.1
    • Awards and honors 5.2
    • Namesakes 5.3
    • Biopics 5.4
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
    • Historiography 8.1
  • External links 9


Early life

Gershwin came from Russian and Lithuanian Jewish heritage. His grandfather, Jakov Gershowitz, had served for 25 years as a mechanic for the Imperial Russian Army to earn the right of free travel and residence as a Jew. He retired near Saint Petersburg. His teenage son, Moishe Gershowitz, worked as a leather cutter for women's shoes; Moishe fell in love with Roza Bruskina, the teenage daughter of a furrier, born in Vilnius. Bruskina moved with her family to New York because of increasing antisemitism in Russia; she Americanized her first name to Rose. Moishe, faced with compulsory military service in Russia, followed Rose as soon as he was able. Upon arrival in New York, Moishe Gershowitz gave his first name as Morris. He settled at first with his mother's brother in Brooklyn, a tailor named Greenstein, and earned money as a foreman in a women's shoe workshop. When Morris and Rose married on July 21, 1895, she was 19 and he was 23. Gershowitz changed his family name to Gershwin some time between 1893 and 1898, perhaps at his marriage.[3][4][5]

The first child of the family was fugue, a passacaglia, the use of atonality, polytonality and polyrhythm, and a tone row. Even the "set numbers" (of which "Summertime", "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin'" and "It Ain't Necessarily So" are well known examples) are some of the most refined and ingenious of Gershwin's output. For the performances, Gershwin collaborated with Eva Jessye, whom he picked as the musical director. One of the outstanding musical alumnae of Western University in Kansas, she had created her own choir in New York and performed widely with them. The work was first performed in 1935; it was a box office failure.

Last years

After the commercial failure of Porgy and Bess, Gershwin moved to Hollywood, California. He was commissioned by RKO Pictures in 1936 to write the music for the film Shall We Dance, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Gershwin's extended score, which would marry ballet with jazz in a new way, runs over an hour in length. It took Gershwin several months to write and orchestrate it.

Gershwin had a ten-year affair with composer [28] Oh, Kay was named for her.[29] After Gershwin's death, Swift arranged some of his music, transcribed several of his recordings, and collaborated with his brother Ira on several projects.[30]

Early in 1937, Gershwin began to complain of blinding headaches and a recurring impression that he smelled burning rubber. On February 11, 1937, Gershwin performed his Piano Concerto in F in a special concert of his music with the Yip Harburg's empty quarters nearby where he was placed in the care of his valet, Paul Mueller. The headaches and olfactory hallucinations continued and on June 23, after an incident in which Gershwin tried to push Mueller out of the car in which they were riding, Gershwin was admitted to Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles for observation. Tests showed no physical cause and he was released on the 26th with a diagnosis of "likely hysteria". His troubles with coordination and mental acuity worsened, and on the night of July 9 Gershwin collapsed in Harburg's house where he had been working on the score of The Goldwyn Follies. He was rushed back to Cedars of Lebanon[32] where he fell into a coma. Only at that point did it become obvious to his doctors that he was suffering from a brain tumor. An immediate call was made to pioneering neurosurgeon Dr. Harvey Cushing in Boston who, retired for several years by then, recommended Dr. Walter Dandy who was on a boat fishing in Chesapeake Bay with the Governor of Maryland. Dandy was quickly brought to shore by the Coast Guard and sent on to Newark Airport to catch a plane to Los Angeles; however, by that time Gershwin's condition was judged to be critical and the need for surgery immediate. An attempt by doctors at Cedars to excise the tumor was made in the early hours of the 11th, but it proved unsuccessful, and Gershwin died on the morning of July 11, 1937, at the age of 38.

Gershwin's many friends and fans were shocked and devastated. [33] He was interred at Westchester Hills Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. A memorial concert was held at the Hollywood Bowl on September 8, 1937, at which Otto Klemperer conducted his own orchestration of the second of Gershwin's Three Preludes.[34]

Gershwin received his sole Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song at the 1937 Oscars for "They Can't Take That Away from Me", written with his brother Ira for the 1937 film Shall We Dance. The nomination was posthumous; Gershwin died two months after the film's release.[35]

Gershwin's mausoleum in Westchester Hills Cemetery[36]

Musical style and influence

Birthday party honoring Maurice Ravel in New York City, March 8, 1928. From left: Oskar Fried; Éva Gauthier; Ravel at piano; Manoah Leide-Tedesco; and George Gershwin.

Gershwin was influenced by French composers of the early twentieth century. In turn [37] The orchestrations in Gershwin's symphonic works often seem similar to those of Ravel; likewise, Ravel's two piano concertos evince an influence of Gershwin.

Gershwin asked to study with Ravel. When Ravel heard how much Gershwin earned, Ravel replied with words to the effect of, "You should give me lessons." (Some versions of this story feature Igor Stravinsky rather than Ravel as the composer; however Stravinsky confirmed that he originally heard the story from Ravel.)[38]

Gershwin's own Concerto in F was criticized for being related to the work of Claude Debussy, more so than to the expected jazz style. The comparison did not deter Gershwin from continuing to explore French styles. The title of An American in Paris reflects the very journey that he had consciously taken as a composer: "The opening part will be developed in typical French style, in the manner of Debussy and Les Six, though the tunes are original."[39]

Aside from the French influence, Gershwin was intrigued by the works of Alban Berg, Dmitri Shostakovich, Igor Stravinsky, Darius Milhaud, and Arnold Schoenberg. He also asked Schoenberg for composition lessons. Schoenberg refused, saying "I would only make you a bad Schoenberg, and you're such a good Gershwin already."[40] (This quote is similar to one credited to Maurice Ravel during Gershwin's 1928 visit to France – "Why be a second-rate Ravel, when you are a first-rate Gershwin?")

Russian Vernon Duke, also a Schillinger student, in an article for the Musical Quarterly in 1947.[41]

What set Gershwin apart was his ability to manipulate forms of music into his own unique voice. He took the jazz he discovered on [42]

In 2007, the Paul Simon.[43]

Recordings and film

Early in his career Gershwin recorded more than one hundred and forty player piano piano rolls both under his own name and pseudonyms, which were a main source of income for him. The majority were popular music of the period and a smaller proportion were of his own works. Once his musical theatre-writing income became substantial, his regular roll-recording career became superfluous. He did record additional rolls throughout the 1920s of his main hits for the Aeolian Company's reproducing piano, including a complete version of his Rhapsody in Blue.

Compared to the piano rolls, there are few accessible audio recordings of Gershwin's playing. His first recording was his own Swanee with the Fred Van Eps Trio in 1919. The recorded balance highlights the banjo playing of Van Eps, and the piano is overshadowed. The recording took place before Swanee became famous as an Al Jolson specialty in early 1920.

Gershwin did record an abridged version of Rhapsody in Blue with Paul Whiteman and his orchestra for the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1924, soon after the world premiere. Gershwin and the same orchestra made an electrical recording of the abridged version for Victor in 1927. However, a dispute in the studio over interpretation angered Paul Whiteman and he left. The conductor's baton was taken over by Victor's staff conductor Nathaniel Shilkret.[44]

Gershwin made a number of solo piano recordings of tunes from his musicals, some including the vocals of Fred and Adele Astaire, as well as his Three Preludes for piano. In 1929, Gershwin "supervised" the world premiere recording of An American in Paris with Nathaniel Shilkret and the Victor Symphony Orchestra. Gershwin's role in the recording was rather limited, particularly because Shilkret was conducting and had his own ideas about the music. When it was realized that no one had been hired to play the brief celeste solo, Gershwin was asked if he could and would play the instrument, and he agreed. Gershwin can be heard, rather briefly, on the recording during the slow section.

Gershwin appeared on several radio programs, including Rudy Vallee's, and played some of his compositions. This included the third movement of the Concerto in F with Vallee conducting the studio orchestra. Some of these performances were preserved on transcription discs and have been released on LP and CD.

In 1934, in an effort to earn money to finance his planned folk opera, Gershwin hosted his own radio program titled Music by Gershwin. The show was broadcast on the RCA Victor asked him to supervise recordings of highlights from Porgy and Bess; these were his last recordings.

A 74-second newsreel film clip of Gershwin playing I Got Rhythm has survived, filmed at the opening of the Manhattan Theater (now The Ed Sullivan Theater) in August 1931.[46] There are also silent home movies of Gershwin, some of them shot on Kodachrome color film stock, which have been featured in tributes to the composer. In addition, there is newsreel footage of Gershwin playing "Mademoiselle from New Rochelle" and "Strike Up the Band" on the piano during a Broadway rehearsal of the 1930 production of Strike Up the Band. In the mid-30s, "Strike Up The Band" was given to UCLA to be used as a football fight song, "Strike Up The Band for UCLA". The comedy team of Clark and McCullough are seen conversing with Gershwin, then singing as he plays.

In 1965, Movietone Records released an album MTM 1009 featuring Gershwin's piano rolls of the titled George Gerswhin plays RHAPSODY IN BLUE and his other favorite compositions. The B-side of the LP featured nine other recordings.

In 1975, Columbia Records released an album featuring Gershwin's piano rolls of Rhapsody In Blue, accompanied by the Columbia Jazz Band playing the original jazz band accompaniment, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. The B-side of the Columbia Masterworks release features Tilson Thomas leading the New York Philharmonic in An American In Paris. In 1976, RCA Records, as part of their "Victrola Americana" line, released a collection of Gershwin recordings taken from 78s recorded in the 1920s and called the LP "Gershwin plays Gershwin, Historic First Recordings" (RCA Victrola AVM1-1740). Included were recordings of "Rhapsody in Blue" with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and Gershwin on piano, "An American in Paris", from 1927 with Gershwin on celesta and "Three Preludes", "Clap Yo' Hands" and Someone to Watch Over Me", among others. There are a total of ten recordings on the album.

The soundtrack to

In 1998, two audio CDs featuring piano rolls recorded Gershwin[47] were issued by Nonesuch Records through the efforts of Artis Woodhouse. It is entitled Gershwin Plays Gershwin: The Piano Rolls.[48]

Many singers and musicians have recorded Gershwin songs, including Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, Louis Armstrong, Dean Martin, Al Jolson, Bobby Darin, Percy Grainger, Art Tatum, Yehudi Menuhin, Bing Crosby, The Moody Blues, Janis Joplin, John Coltrane, Mel Tormé, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sam Cooke, Diana Ross, Neil Sedaka, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Hiromi Uehara, Madonna, Judy Garland, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, Marni Nixon, Natalie Cole, Patti Austin, Nina Simone, Maureen McGovern, Adam Faith, John Fahey, The Residents, Kate Bush, Sublime, Sting, Amy Winehouse, Doris Day, Chet Atkins and Liquid Tension Experiment.

In October 2009, it was reported by

  • International Music Score Library Project
  • Free scores at the Mutopia Project
  • MusicalTalk Podcast on George Gershwin (part one of two)
  • MusicalTalk Podcast on George Gershwin (part two of two)
  • Official website
  • Gershwin page
  • George Gershwin at the Internet Broadway Database
  • George Gershwin at the Internet Movie Database
  • Works by or about George Gershwin in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  • George Gershwin Bio at Jewish-American Hall of Fame
  • George Gershwin Collection at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin
  • George Gershwin WWI draft card at National Archives
  • 1922 passport photo, George Gershwin (
  • George Gershwin at Library of Congress Authorities, with 1258 catalog records

External links

  • Carnovale, Norbert. George Gershwin: a Bio-Bibliography (2000. ) Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-26003-2 ISBN 0-313-26003-6
  • Muccigrosso, Robert, ed., Research Guide to American Historical Biography (1988) 5:2523-30


  • Alpert, Hollis. The Life and Times of Porgy and Bess: The Story of an American Classic (1991). Nick Hern Books. ISBN 1-85459-054-5
  • Feinstein, Michael. Nice Work If You Can Get It: My Life in Rhythm and Rhyme (1995), Hyperion Books. ISBN 0-7868-8220-4
  • Jablonski, Edward. Gershwin Remembered (2003). Amadeus Press. ISBN 0-931340-43-8
  • Rosenberg, Deena Ruth. Fascinating Rhythm: The Collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin (1991). University of Michigan Press ISBN 978-0-472-08469-2
  • Sheed, Wilfred. The House That George Built: With a Little Help from Irving, Cole, and a Crew of About Fifty (2007). Random House. ISBN 0-8129-7018-7
  • Suriano, Gregory R. (Editor). Gershwin in His Time: A Biographical Scrapbook, 1919–1937 (1998). Diane Pub Co. ISBN 0-7567-5660-X
  • Weber, Katharine. "The Memory Of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy of Infidelities" (2011). Crown Publishers, Inc./Broadway Books ISBN 978-0307395894
  • Wyatt, Robert and John Andrew Johnson (Editors). The George Gershwin Reader (2004). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513019-7

Further reading

  • Hyland, William G. George Gershwin : A New Biography (2003), Praeger Publishers, ISBN 0-275-98111-8
  • Jablonski, Edward Gershwin (1987), Doubleday, ISBN 0-385-19431-5
  • Kimball, Robert & Alfred Simon. The Gershwins (1973), Athenium, New York, ISBN 0-689-10569-X
  • Mawer, Deborah (Editor). Cross, Jonathan (Series Editor). The Cambridge Companion to Ravel (Cambridge Companions to Music) (2000), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-64856-4
  • Peyser, Joan. The Memory of All That:The Life of George Gershwin (2007), Hal Leonard Corporation, ISBN 1-4234-1025-4
  • Pollack, Howard. George Gershwin. His Life and Work (2006), University of California Press, ISBN 978-0-520-24864-9
  • Rimler, Walter. A Gershwin Companion (1991), Popular Culture ISBN 1-56075-019-7
  • Rimler, Walter George Gershwin : An Intimate Portrait (2009), University of Illinois Press, ISBN 0-252-03444-9
  • Sloop, Gregory. "What Caused George Gershwin's Untimely Death?" Journal of Medical Biography 9 (February 2001): 28–30
  1. ^ Obituary Variety, July 14, 1937, page 70.
  2. ^ "George Gershwin, Composer, Is Dead; Master of Jazz Succumbs in Hollywood at 38 After Operation for Brain Tumor" The New York Times, (abstract), July 12, 1937, p. 1
  3. ^ Hyland, pp.1–3
  4. ^ Pollack, Howard. George Gershwin. His Life and Work (2006), University of California Press, p. 3, ISBN 978-0-520-24864-9.
  5. ^ a b Jablonski pp. 29–31
  6. ^ Pollack p. 10
  7. ^ Howard Pollack (2006). George Gershwin: His Life and Work. University of California Press. 
  8. ^ Andrew Rosenberg, Martin Dunford (2012). The Rough Guide to New York City. Penguin. 
  9. ^ "Reviving, Revisiting Yiddish Culture", Mark Swed, LA Times, October 20, 1998
  10. ^ "Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress: George Gershwin". Jewish Virtual Library. 2013. Retrieved March 10, 2013.  As quoted from Abraham J. Karp (1991) From the Ends of the Earth: Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress, p. 351, ISBN 0847814505.
  11. ^ Schwartz, Charles (1973). Gershwin, His Life and Music. New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc. p. 14.  
  12. ^ Hyland, p. 13
  13. ^ Hyland, p. 14
  14. ^ Venezia, Mike (1994). Getting to Know the World's Greatest Composers: George Gerswhin. Chicago IL: Childrens Press. 
  15. ^ Slide, Anthony. The Encyclopedia of Vaudeville, Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1994. p. 111.
  16. ^ Pollack, pp. 191–192
  17. ^ Lady, Be Good at the Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved August 22, 2011
  18. ^ Oh, Kay! at the Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved August 22, 2011
  19. ^ Funny Face at the Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved August 22, 2011
  20. ^ Strike Up the Band at the Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved August 22, 2011
  21. ^ Show Girl at the Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved August 22, 2011
  22. ^ Girl Crazy at the Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved August 22, 2011
  23. ^ Of Thee I Sing at the Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved August 22, 2011
  24. ^ "Drama". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  25. ^ Jablonski pp.155–170
  26. ^ Jablonski, pp.178–180
  27. ^ Grigsby Bates, Karen.70 Years of Gershwin's 'Porgy and Bess'", October 10, 2005
  28. ^ Sidney Offit (September–October 2011). "Sins of Our Fathers (and Grandmothers)". Moment Magazine. Retrieved October 3, 2011. 
  29. ^ Hyland p.108
  30. ^ (Kay Swift Memorial Trust)Kay Swift biography. Retrieved December 28, 2007.
  31. ^ Pollack, p. 353
  32. ^ Jablonski, Edward. "George Gershwin; He Couldn't Be Saved" (Letter to Editor), The New York Times, October 25, 1998, Section 2; Page 4; Column 5
  33. ^ "Broad Street". February 27, 2007. Retrieved March 10, 2010. 
  34. ^ Pollack, p.392
  35. ^ "1937 Song" Retrieved August 22, 2011
  36. ^ George Gershwin at Find a Grave
  37. ^ Mawer pp 42
  38. ^ Arthur Rubinstein, My Many Years; Merle Armitage, George Gershwin; Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Dialogues and a Diary, all quoted in Norman Lebrecht, The Book of Musical Anecdotes
  39. ^ (Hyland pp 126)
  40. ^ Norman Lebrecht, The Book of Musical Anecdotes
  41. ^ Dukelsky, Vladimir (Vernon Duke), "Gershwin, Schillinger and Dukelsky: Some Reminiscences", The Musical Quarterly, Volume 33, 1947, 102–115 doi:10.1093/mq/XXXIII.1.102
  42. ^ "George Gershwin", (Compiled February 2000). Retrieved April 20, 2010
  43. ^ "Paul Simon: The Library Of Congress Gershwin Prize For Popular Song", PBS article
  44. ^ Peyser, p. 133
  45. ^ Pollack, p. 163
  46. ^ Jablonski, Edward, Stewart, Lawrence D. The Gershwin Years. Doubleday: New York, 1973. 170.
  47. ^ George Gershwin and the player piano 1915–1927. Retrieved December 28, 2007.
  48. ^ Yanow, Scott." 'Gershwin Plays Gershwin: The Piano Rolls' Overview" Retrieved August 22, 2011
  49. ^ "Brian Wilson Will Complete Unfinished Gershwin Compositions", October 2009
  50. ^ Holden, Stephen. "Gershwin". The New York Times. Retrieved March 10, 2010. 
  51. ^ Rosenberg, Adam."Zachary Quinto May Play George Gershwin for Steven Spielberg", February 1, 2010
  52. ^ Jablonski, Edward and Lawrence D. Stewart. The Gershwin Years: George and Ira. Garden City, New Jersey: Doubleday & Company, 1973. Second edition. ISBN 0-306-80739-4, pp. 25, 227–229.
  53. ^ Pollack, p.7
  54. ^ Scott, Kirsty.Gershwin leads composer rich list The Guardian, August 29, 2005. Retrieved December 28, 2007.
  55. ^ "U-M to become epicenter of research on music of George & Ira Gershwin". Michigan News. 2013. Retrieved November 26, 2013. 
  56. ^ "Toward a Go-To Gershwin Edition". New York Times. 2013. Retrieved November 26, 2013. 
  57. ^ "In Performance at the White House:The Library of Congress:Gershwin Prize" Retrieved April 15, 2010
  58. ^ "Congressional Gold Medal Recipients (1776 to Present)" Office of the Clerk, US House of Representatives ( Retrieved April 15, 2010.
  59. ^ "The 1998 Pulitzer Prize Winners: Special Awards and Citations". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  60. ^ "History of the Gershwin Theater" Retrieved August 22, 2011
  61. ^ Richardson, Clem (October 23, 2009). "Tonya Lewis brings start power and true perfect to 'only-place-to-be' party". Daily News (New York). Retrieved June 15, 2011. 


See also


  • The [60]
  • The Gershwin Hotel in the Flatiron District of Manhattan in New York City was named after George and Ira.
  • In [61]


Awards and honors

In September 2013, a partnership between the estates of Ira and George Gershwin and the University of Michigan was created and will provide the university's School of Music, Theatre, and Dance access to Gershwin's entire body of work, which include all of Gershwin's papers, compositional drafts, and scores.[55] This direct access to all of his works will provide opportunities to musicians, composers, and scholars to analyze and reinterpret his work with the goal of accurately reflecting the composers' vision in order to preserve his legacy.[56]

[54] In 2005,

Gershwin died intestate, and his estate passed to his mother.[53] The estate continues to collect significant royalties from licensing the copyrights on his work. The estate supported the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act because its 1923 cutoff date was shortly before Gershwin had begun to create his most popular works. The copyrights on all Gershwin's solo works expired at the end of 2007 in the European Union, based on its life-plus-70-years rule.



  • Delicious (1931), an early version of the Second Rhapsody and one other musical sequence was used in this film, the rest were rejected by the studio
  • Shall We Dance (1937), original orchestral score by Gershwin, no recordings available in modern stereo, some sections have never been recorded
  • A Damsel in Distress (1937)
  • The Goldwyn Follies (1938), posthumously released
  • The Shocking Miss Pilgrim (1947), uses songs previously unpublished

Films for which Gershwin wrote original scores

Broadway Musicals

London Musicals

  • Three Preludes (1926)
  • Blue Monday (1922), one-act opera
  • Colonial Theatre in Boston[52]

Solo Piano




was released on August 17, 2010. The album consists of covers of ten George and Ira Gershwin songs, bookended by passages from Rhapsody in Blue, along with two new songs completed from unfinished Gershwin fragments by Wilson and band member Scott Bennett. Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin [49] Based on the novel

Gershwin's first opera, [27]


In 1929, Gershwin was contracted by Fox Film Corporation to compose the score for the movie Delicious. Only two pieces were used in the final film, the five-minute "Dream Sequence" and the six-minute "Manhattan Rhapsody", which in expanded form was later published as the Second Rhapsody. Gershwin became infuriated when the rest of the score was rejected by Fox Film Corporation, and it would be seven years before he worked in Hollywood again.

In the mid-1920s, Gershwin stayed in Paris for a short period of time, during which he applied to study composition with the noted Nadia Boulanger who, along with several other prospective tutors such as Maurice Ravel, rejected him. They were afraid that rigorous classical study would ruin his jazz-influenced style.[25] Maurice Ravel's rejection letter to Gershwin told him, "Why become a second-rate Ravel when you're already a first-rate Gershwin?" While there, Gershwin wrote An American in Paris. This work received mixed reviews upon its first performance at Carnegie Hall on December 13, 1928, but it quickly became part of the standard repertoire in Europe and the United States.[26] Growing tired of the Parisian musical scene, Gershwin returned to the United States.

In 1924, Gershwin composed his first major classical work, Rhapsody in Blue, for orchestra and piano. It was orchestrated by Ferde Grofé and premiered by Paul Whiteman's concert band in New York. It proved to be his most popular work.

George Gershwin, c. 1935.

Europe and classical music

[24] The Gershwin brothers created

In the early 1920s, Gershwin frequently worked with the lyricist Lady Be Good, which included such future standards as "Fascinating Rhythm" and "Oh, Lady Be Good!".[17] They followed this with Oh, Kay! (1926);[18] Funny Face (1927);[19] Strike Up the Band (1927 and 1930). Gershwin gave the song, with a modified title, to UCLA to be used as a football fight song, "Strike Up The Band for UCLA".[20]

In the late 1910s, Gershwin met songwriter and music director William Daly. The two collaborated on the Broadway musicals Piccadilly to Broadway (1920) and For Goodness' Sake (1922), and jointly composed the score for Our Nell (1923). This was the beginning of a long friendship; Daly was a frequent arranger, orchestrator and conductor of Gershwin's music, and Gershwin periodically turned to him for musical advice.[16]

In 1916, Gershwin started working for Aeolian Company and Standard Music Rolls in New York, recording and arranging. He produced dozens, if not hundreds, of rolls under his own and assumed names. (Pseudonyms attributed to Gershwin include Fred Murtha and Bert Wynn.) He also recorded rolls of his own compositions for the Duo-Art and Welte-Mignon reproducing pianos. As well as recording piano rolls, Gershwin made a brief foray into vaudeville, accompanying both Nora Bayes and Louise Dresser on the piano.[15]

On leaving school at the age of 15, Gershwin found his first job as a "song plugger" for Jerome H. Remick and Company, a publishing firm on New York City's Tin Pan Alley, where he earned $15 a week. His first published song was "When You Want 'Em, You Can't Get 'Em, When You've Got 'Em, You Don't Want 'Em". It was published in 1916 when Gershwin was only 17 years old and earned him $5. His 1917 novelty rag, "Rialto Ripples", was a commercial success, and in 1919 he scored his first big national hit with his song, "Swanee", with words by Irving Caesar. Al Jolson, a famous Broadway singer of the day, heard Gershwin perform "Swanee" at a party and decided to sing it in one of his shows.[14]

Irving Caesar's 1919 "Swanee".

Problems playing this file? See .

Tin Pan Alley

Gershwin tried various piano teachers for two years, before being introduced to Charles Hambitzer by Jack Miller, the pianist in the Beethoven Symphony Orchestra. Until Hambitzer's death in 1918, he acted as Gershwin's mentor. Hambitzer taught Gershwin conventional piano technique, introduced him to music of the European classical tradition, and encouraged him to attend orchestra concerts.[13] At home, following such concerts, young Gershwin would try to play at the piano the music that he had heard. He later studied with the classical composer Rubin Goldmark and avant-garde composer-theorist Henry Cowell.

After Ira and George, two more children were born to the family: Arthur Gershwin also became a composer of songs, musicals, and short piano works.

George and Ira lived in many different residences as their father changed dwellings with each new enterprise he became involved with. Mostly, the boys grew up around the extra.[7][8][9][10]


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