Biography of Modern Music Composer George Gershwin Part 2

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

George Gershwin (1898-1937).

As significant as the "rhapsody" was for Gershwin's serious music, his collaboration with Ira in the same year was a partnership marked by originality, taste, and musicianship. The show was Lady, Be Good! and starred a youthful Fred Astaire. Thereafter almost yearly a George and Ira Gershwin musical appeared on the Broadway boards, even while George was working in the serious vein, producing the Concerto in F (1925), the vivid tone poem An American in Paris (1928), and the Second Rhapsody (1931).

Meanwhile the prolific brothers were making musical theater history with such gems as Oh, Kay! (which Gertrude Lawrence chose in 1926 for her 1st native American showcase), Funny Face (another Fred and Adele Astaire vehicle, in 1927), and Girl Crazy (which in 1930 launched 2 exciting talents, Ethel Merman and Ginger Rogers).

Gershwin's 2 masterpieces were in very different mediums: The witty, satirical Of Thee I Sing (1931) was the 1st musical to win a Pulitzer Prize, while the Negro folk opera Porgy and Bess (1935) has been called the greatest opera written by an American. Of Thee I Sing repeated the successful collaboration of George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind, and George and Ira Gershwin that had struck pay dirt with Strike Up the Band (1930). Porgy and Bess, based on a book by DuBose Heyward, was not a success at its premiere, but later revivals on Broadway, on the road, and in foreign opera houses proved the importance and durability of this milestone in American music drama. With it Gershwin's prodigious output for Broadway ended, and he did not live to savor its success. In 1936 he and Ira moved to Hollywood and wrote exclusively for films, including 2 in which he was reunited with Fred Astaire (Shall We Dance? and Damsel in Distress, 1937). While he was working on the music for The Goldwyn Follies in 1937, he was stricken with an inoperable brain tumor. He died on July 11, a man brimming with vitality, enthusiasm for life, and dynamic creativity. Gershwin's reputation today is undiminished. His songs are playable and recognizable whatever the current musical vogue; his serious works are programmed regularly by symphony orchestras, many of which have annual all Gershwin programs.

Gershwin never married, though he was attracted by many women and did consider it. But his music was his be-all and end-all, and he was unwilling to divert any of his time to the demands of marriage. He was egocentric in his awareness of his talent and stature, but never obtrusively so, and he selflessly helped the careers of many promising newcomers (e.g., Hoagy Carmichael, Vincent Youmans). Straight-forward and unassuming, he applied the same intensity to everything he undertook, whether it was sports, painting, or music.

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