Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Other Gershwin

Mention the name "Gershwin" today and just about everyone will think you have "George" on your mind. Granted he wrote some spectacular music between 1917 and 1937, much of it as fresh today as the day it was written. But George and his melodies were only half of the story. His brother, Ira, born on December 6, 1896, added the poetry. Together they formed one of the most successful collaborations in American music history. While George's music has lived on, Ira's words survive primarily in the world of jazz and in the Great American Songbook niche among popular singers. 

George and Ira Gershwin
George (l) and Ira (r) Gershwin, Newark Airport, 1936

This excerpt from the Ira Gershwin bio at the Song Writers Hall of Fame website will give readers an idea of the scope of their collaboration and bring to mind some of Ira's lyrics:

Their first collaborations were for Broadway: Lady, Be Good! (1924, including "Fascinating Rhythm" and, although it was cut from the show, "The Man I Love"), Tip Toes (1925, including "Sweet and Low Down"), Oh Kay! (1926, including "Clap Yo' Hands", "Do-Do-Do", "Maybe", and "Someone To Watch Over Me"), Funny Face (1927, including '"S Wonderful"), Rosalie (1928, including "How Long Has This Been Going On"), Show Girl (1929, including "Liza"), Strike Up the Band (1930, including "I've Got A Crush On You" and "Soon"), Girl Crazy (1930, including "But Not For Me", "Embraceable You", "Bidin' My Time", and "I Got Rhythm"), Delicious (1931, including "Blah Blah Blah. "), Of Thee I Sing (1931, the first musical to win the Pulitzer Prize and which included "Of Thee I Sing", "Love Is Sweeping The Country", and "Who Cares").

The complete picture includes their work in Hollywood, the Broadway opera Porgy and Bess, and Ira's collaboration with a host of songwriters following his brother's death in 1937. Forty years before his own passing in 1983 Ira Gershwin began a long collaboration with the Library of Congress to collect and preserve their legacy. Today the George and Ira Gershwin Collection  is the leading archive for the study of the Gershwin brothers and their impact on cultural history around the world. Read more about the collection here



Songwriters Hall of Fame,
Library of Congress,


Library of Congress,

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