|George Gershwin (1898-1937)|
Gershwin's father came from a Russian-Lithuanian Jewish family, and his wife Rose was from the same town in Russia. Their first child, Ira, was born December 6, 1896. George (born Jacob) was the second. He became first interested in music when at the age of ten he heard his friend Maxie Rosenzweig play the violin.
George's parents had bought a piano for lessons for his older brother, but to Ira's relief, it was George who learned to play it. Charles Hambitzer was his piano teacher, a conventional musician who until his death in 1918 was George's mentor.
|For four years, George and Ira Gershwin lived at the top of|
33 Riverside Drive in Manhattan. Although their work was
not always immediately appreciated, it is now revered. This
and the next two photos by JT Marlin.
His first big national hit was his song, "Swanee" (1919), with words by Irving Caesar. Al Jolson, the famous black-face Broadway singer, heard Gershwin sing "Swanee" at a party and featured it in his repertoire. In 1916, Gershwin started recording for Aeolian Company and Standard Music Rolls in New York, producing dozens of rolls.
|George and Ira Gershwin taking a break from|
table tennis at 33 Riverside Drive.
In 1924, George and Ira Gershwin collaborated on a stage musical comedy "Lady Be Good", which included "Fascinating Rhythm" and "Oh, Lady Be Good!". They followed this with "Oh, Kay!" (1926); "Funny Face" (1927); and "Strike Up the Band" (1927).
The Gershwin brothers created "Show Girl" (1929); "Girl Crazy" (1930, with Ginger Rogers), which introduced "Embraceable You", "I Got Rhythm", and "Of Thee I Sing" (1931). Gershwin's first major classical work, "Rhapsody in Blue" (1924), for orchestra and piano, was orchestrated by Ferde Grofé. It was his most popular work.
In the mid-1920s, Gershwin stayed in Paris briefly, writing "An American in Paris" (1928), which received mixed reviews but was quickly adopted by musicians. Gershwin was commissioned by Fox Film to compose the score for the movie "Delicious" (1929); the final film used the five-minute "Dream Sequence" and the six-minute "Manhattan Rhapsody".
|George and Ira Gershwin, outside their|
apartments at 33 Riverside Drive
Early in 1937, Gershwin began to have blinding headaches and the smell of burning rubber, which the Los Angeles hospital he checked into could not explain. Later he fell into a coma and it became clear he had a brain tumor. Dr. Harvey Cushing in Boston recommended Dr. Walter Dandy who was fishing in Chesapeake Bay. Gershwin's condition was judged to be critical, so the L.A. doctors tried and failed to cut out the tumor. Gershwin died on July 11, 1937, at 38. He received his sole Academy Award, for Best Original Song, posthumously at the 1937 Oscars for "They Can't Take That Away from Me", written with his brother Ira for "Shall We Dance".