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George Gershwin

“True music must repeat the thought and inspirations of the people and the time. My people are Americans and my time is today.”George Gershwin

A simple twist of fate was all it took for George Gershwin to discover the talent that made him a legend. Destiny came knocking when George’s parents purchased a piano for his older brother, Ira, who expressed an interest in learning to play. But to everyone’s surprise, it was George who had a natural gift for the instrument and the youngster was soon playing by ear. By the age of 12, George had become quite proficient and was on the road to becoming one of the world’s most famous composers.

George, who was born in 1898, began his professional career in “Tin Pan Alley.” The “Alley” was a location in New York City where aspiring composers and songwriters would bring their scores to a publisher in hopes of selling the tunes for a modest amount of cash. He worked as a song plugger for the Jerome Remick Company and learned the formula for a successful song.

Within two years of working for Jerome Remick, George had his first tune published. The song, “When You Want ’Em You Can’t Get ’Em,” paved the way to his first hit “Swanee,” which was sung by Al Jolson in the Broadway musical “Sinbad.” George composed his first musical score in 1919 for the production “La, La Lucille.” He went on to compose “Rhapsody In Blue,” which became his signature piece.

In 1924, George and his brother Ira began their collaboration. George wrote the music and Ira penned the lyrics. The brothers created the musical “Lady Be Good!,” which featured songs such as “Fascinating Rhythm,” and “The Man I Love.”

After “Lady Be Good!,” George teamed up with Ira to create several musicals, including “Tip-Toes, Oh Kay!,” “Strike Up the Band,” “Funny Face,” “Girl Crazy,” and “Of Thee I Sing.” Songs featured from these musicals include “Clap Yo’ Hands,” “Strike Up the Band.” and the highly popular, “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

George and Ira moved to Hollywood in 1930 and composed numerous scores and songs for the Silver Screen. These included short pieces for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. George’s first work for film was for the motion picture “The King of Jazz,” featuring music selected by George’s old friend, Paul Whiteman. The film, which starred Bing Crosby, included “Rhapsody in Blue” as one of its featured songs.

After “The King of Jazz” opened, George and Ira wrote songs for a number of successful films. Among the many successful tunes from those films were “I Got Rhythm,” “But Not For Me,” “Bidin’ My Time,” “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off,” and “Our Love Is Here to Stay.”

George, whose music is still widely recognized today, died of brain cancer on July 11, 1937.

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Last updated: 3/5/2006.

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