Biography of Modern Music Composer George Gershwin Part 1

About the famous modern musical composer George Gershwin, his history and biography.

George Gershwin (1898-1937). One of America's most gifted composers, described as a colossus with one foot planted in Tin Pan Alley and the other in Carnegie Hall, George Gershwin was born Jacob Gershvin in Brooklyn on September 28, 1898. The family (now Gershwin) moved to New York's lower East Side, where young Jacob (now George), a late bloomer as a musician, started to study piano at the age of 13. Before that, street games and a "tough guy" image were more important to him in his milieu, but once he started, music became the guiding force of his life. Ironically, the piano that activated the latent genius's musical interest was acquired not for him but for his older brother, Ira, who later became George's lyricist. For the next 25 years George continued to take lessons, even at the zenith of his incredibly productive career.

At 15, a school dropout, he became a song-plugger, and his career was boosted by such immortals as Sigmund Romberg and Sophie Tucker. Later, as a rehearsal pianist for a Jerome Kern show, he was widely praised and encouraged by his idol, Kern himself. Through his show business and Tin Pan Alley contacts the 21-year-old Gershwin wrote his 1st Broadway musical score, for La, La, Lucille. Not much survived from that show, but at about the same time he dashed off "Swanee" with lyricist Irving Caesar. Written in 15 minutes, and introduced by Al Jolson, it became a smash hit. One million copies of sheet music and more than 2 million records were sold. Instant success was his.

For the next 5 seasons Gershwin wrote scores for George White's Scandals, which sought to supplant the Ziegfeld Follies as the ultimate revue on Broadway. Out of these came the standards "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise" and "Somebody Loves Me." During this period of youthful creativity, Gershwin was experimenting with the composition of jazz as a serious musical form. Fortunately he found a kindred soul also determined to develop this genre--Paul Whiteman, who commissioned him to write a work for an all-American concert which Whiteman's orchestra would present. At Aeolian Hall in New York on February 12, 1924, Rhapsody in Blue was premiered to thundering critical acclaim. Now Gershwin had world fame, along with the wealth accumulated from recording royalties. Even today Rhapsody in Blue is one of the most widely played pieces of serious American music.

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