George Gershwin (September 26, 1898 – July 11, 1937) was an American composer and pianist. Gershwin's compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known. Among his best known works are the orchestral compositions Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and An American in Paris (1928), as well as the opera, Porgy and Bess (1935).
He wrote most of his vocal and theatrical works, including more than a dozen Broadway shows, in collaboration with his elder brother, lyricist Ira Gershwin.
George Gershwin composed music for both Broadway and the classical concert hall, as well as popular songs that brought his work to an even wider public. His compositions have been used in numerous films and on television, and many became jazz standards recorded in numerous variations. Countless singers and musicians have recorded Gershwin songs.
Gershwin was named Jacob Gershowitz at birth in Brooklyn, New York on September 26, 1898. His parents were Russian Jews. His father, Morris (Moishe) Gershowitz, changed his family name to 'Gershvin' some time after immigrating to the United States from St. Petersburg, Russia in the early 1890s. Gershwin's mother Rosa Bruskin had already immigrated from Russia. She met Gershowitz in New York and they married on July 21, 1895. (George changed the spelling of the family name to 'Gershwin' after he became a professional musician; other members of his family followed suit.)
George Gershwin was the second of four children. He first displayed interest in music at the age of ten, when he was intrigued by what he heard at his friend Maxie Rosenzweig's violin recital. The sound and the way his friend played captured him. His parents had bought a piano for lessons for his older brother Ira, but to his parents' surprise and Ira's relief, it was George who played it. Although his younger sister Frances Gershwin was the first in the family to make money from her musical talents, she married young and devoted herself to being a mother and housewife. She gave up her performing career, but settled into painting for another creative outlet — painting was also a hobby of George Gershwin.
Gershwin tried various piano teachers for two years, and then was 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. At home, following such concerts, young Gershwin would attempt to reproduce at the piano the music that he had heard. He later studied with classical composer Rubin Goldmark and avant-garde composer-theorist Henry Cowell.
Early in 1937, Gershwin began to complain of blinding headaches and a recurring impression that he was smelling burned rubber. Doctors discovered he had developed a type of cystic malignant brain tumor known as glioblastoma multiforme. Although some tried to trace his disease to a blow on the head from a golf ball, the cause of this type of cancer is still unknown. It occurs most often in males, accounts for 52% of all brain cancers, and is nearly always fatal.
The diagnosis of glioblastoma multiforme has been questioned. The surgeon's description of Gershwin's tumor as a right temporal lobe cyst with a mural nodule is much more consistent with a pilocytic astrocytoma, a very low grade of brain tumor. Further, Gershwin's initial olfactory hallucination (the unpleasant smell of burning rubber) was in 1934. It is highly unlikely that a glioblastoma multiforme would cause symptoms of that duration prior to causing death. Pilocytic astrocytomas may cause symptoms for twenty or more years prior to diagnosis. Thus, it is possible that Gershwin's prominent chronic gastrointestinal symptoms (which he called his "composer's stomach") were a manifestation of temporal lobe epilepsy caused by his tumor. If this is correct, then Gershwin was not "a notorious hypochondriac," as suggested by his biographer Edward Jablonski.
In January 1937, Gershwin performed in a special concert of his music with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra under the direction of French maestro Pierre Monteux. Gershwin suffered "musical blackouts" during his final performances. It was in Hollywood, while working on the score of The Goldwyn Follies, that he collapsed. He died on July 11, 1937 at the age of 38 at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital following surgery for the tumor. John O'Hara remarked: "George Gershwin died on July 11, 1937, but I don't have to believe it if I don't want to." 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 Piano Preludes.
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.
Gershwin had a ten-year affair with composer Kay Swift and frequently consulted her about his music. Oh, Kay was named for her. After Gershwin died, Swift arranged some of his music, transcribed some of his recordings, and collaborated with his brother Ira on several projects.
George Gershwin's mausoleum in Westchester Hills Cemetery
Gershwin died intestate. All his property passed to his mother. He is buried in the Westchester Hills Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. The Gershwin estate continues to collect significant royalties from licensing the copyrights on Gershwin's 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 the life plus 70 years rule in force in the EU.
In 2005, The Guardian determined using "estimates of earnings accrued in a composer's lifetime" that George Gershwin was the wealthiest composer of all time.
01 - George Gershwin - Prelude No. 2 For Piano
02 - Ethel Waters - I Got Rhythm
03 - Buck & Bubbles - Oh Lady, Be Good
04 - Billie Holiday – Summertime
05 - Maxine Sullivan And Her Orchestra - Nice Work If You Can Get It
06 - Fred Astaire - They Can't Take That Away From Me
07 - Al Jolson – Swanee
08 - Benny Goodman – Liza
09 - Frank Sinatra - Someone To Watch Over Me
10 - Dinah Shore And Buddy Clark - 'S Wonderful
11 - Jane Rusell - Do It Again
12 - Dorothy Kirsten – Soon
13 - Morton Gould, His Piano & Orch. - Fascinating Rhythm / Someone To Watch Over Me
14 - Billie Holiday And Her Orchestra - The Man I Love
15 - Fred Astaire - Let's Call The Whole Thing Off
16 - Gene Kelly - Love Is Here To Stay
17 - Felicia Sanders - How Long Has This Been Going On
18 - Harry James And His Orchestra – Blues
19 - Doris Day - But Not For Me
20 - Rosemary Clooney - A Foggy Day
21 - George Guetary - I'll Build A Stairway To Paradise
22 - Oscar Levant - Third Movement (Allegro Agitato)
01 - Buffalo Philharmonic - Of Thee I Sing Overture
02 - Tony Bennett - They All Laughed
03 - The Hi-Lo's - Of Thee I Sing
04 - Los Angeles Philharmonic - Promenade (Walking The Dog)
05 - Ella Fitzgerald - I've Got A Crush On You
06 - Alberta Hunter - Somebody Loves Me
07 - Maureen McGovern - Love Walked In / Embraceable You
08 - Dick Hyman – Mine
09 - Mel Torme - Isn't It A Pity
10 - Andre Kostelantez And His Orchestra - Introduction And Jazzbo Brown
11 - Aretha Franklin - It Ain't Necessarily So
12 - Robert McFerrin And Adele Addison - Bess, You Is My Woman Now
13 - Miles Davis - I Loves You, Porgy
14 - Sarah Vaughan - My Man's Gone Now
15 - Cab Calloway - There's A Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon For New York
16 - Tony Bennett - Who Cares
17 - George Gershwin - Rhapsody In Blue
18 - Andre Kostelanetz And His Orchestra - Strike Up The Band
19 - Michael Feinstein - Home Blues
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