"When I'm in my normal mood," observed George Gershwin, " music drips from my fingers." It was not uncommon for Gershwin to play the piano at celebrity gatherings, then return home and write songs all night.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Gershwin was the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants. Gershwin's parents bought a piano for his older brother Ira, yet it was George who was eager to play it. By the age of 16, Gershwin left school to work 10 hours a day in music stores. In 1919, Gershwin's song "Swanee" performed by Al Jolson became one of the first phonograph records ever made. The song became an instant hit selling over 2 million copies.
George Gershwin often collaborated with his brother in producing songs. Ira became known as "Mr. Words" while George was "Mr. Music." In 1924, Gershwin was commissioned to write a work for a concert. Gershwin produced "Rhapsody in Blue in the course of 1 month. It has become the most frequently played orchestral piece written by an American. Gershwin himself called it "a musical kaleidoscope of America." He wrote many successful scores for Broadway and Hollywood. Gershwin even wrote an opera called Porgy and Bess.
George Gershwin died of a brain tumor in 1937 at the age of 38.
Some of his most memorable works in addition to "Rhapsody
in Blue" include "I Got Rhythm," "Let's Call
the Whole Thing Off," "Someone to Watch Over Me,"
"Summertime," and An American in Paris. His compositions
expressed a new, genuinely American music.
Bye, L. Dean. Student's Guide to the Great Composers. Pacific,
Montana: Mel Bay Publications, Inc., 1988.
Wechsberg, Joseph. The Pantheon Story of Music for Young People.
New York: Random House, Inc., 1968.