September 26, 1898 – July 11, 1937
Rhapsody in Blue
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Pianist and composer George Gershwin was born on September 26, 1898 in Brooklyn, New York.
Gershwin left school at 15 to work at a Tin Pan Alley publishing firm, where he performed songs to advertise their sheet music.
He soon began songwriting, producing hundreds of music rolls for player pianos and composing for Broadway musicals.
Gershwin’s first major classical composition is 1924’s Rhapsody in Blue. One of music’s finest compositions, it helped bridge the gap between jazz and classical.
Classically trained both as a pianist and in music composition he soon proved to be an invaluable asset writhing and performing works of his own.
After achieving a number of minor hits he struck it big in 1919 when popular singer Al Jolson performed his original tune “Swanee” featuring words by Irving Caesar.
During the early 1920s George collaborated frequently with lyricist Buddy DeSylva with who he penned the one-act jazz opera “Blue Monday”.
He went on to write a string of Broadway musical comedies with his brother Ira Gershwin throughout the decade beginning in 1924 with “Lady Be Good”.
After experiencing with blinding headaches and coordination problems in early 1937 George’s condition only worsened plaguing him with hallucinations and blackouts.
On the morning of July 11, 1937, George Gershwin one of the greatest composers of the 20th century died in Los Angeles at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital after an unsuccessful operation to remove his brain tumor.
His works have long been favored by jazz musicians.
Some of Gershwin’s other compositions that became jazz standards include “Summertime”, “Embraceable You”, “I Got Rhythm”, “A Foggy Day”, “But Not for Me”, “They Can’t Take That Away from Me”, and “Love is Here to Stay”.
Check out our fascinating in depth discussion of the life and music of George Gershwin with Richie Gerber, author of “Jazz America’s Gift”