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George Gershwin

Composer

Born: 26 September 1898
Died: 11 July 1937 (brain tumor)
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York
Best known as: Composer of Rhapsody in Blue

Name at birth: Jacob Bruskin Gershvin

George Gershwin's popular songs and compositions from the 1920s and 1930s include "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," "They Can't Take That Away From Me" and the symphonic jazz piece Rhapsody in Blue. Gershwin dropped out of high school to work as a songwriter in New York's Tin Pan Alley, and had his first hit with 1919's "Swanee" (performed by Al Jolson). He first earned a living cranking out songs for stage revues and recording player piano rolls. He teamed with his brother, lyricist Ira Gershwin (1896-1983), and together they wrote the songs for Broadway's Lady Be Good (1924), a hit that secured their reputation for lively, clever and memorable songs. Until George died of a brain tumor in 1937, the brothers wrote hundreds of songs -- together and individually -- that were used in Broadway shows and Hollywood movies. Gershwin's most popular songs include "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "I Got Rhythm." He was also one of the first "popular" songsmiths to gain praise as a legitimate composer. His compositions for orchestra include Rhapsody in Blue (1924), Concerto in F (1925) and An American in Paris (1928). Together, the Gershwins helped elevate American musical theater to a legitimate art form and created some of the best known music of the 20th century.

Extra credit: Gershwin's father changed his name from Morris Gershovitz to Morris Gershvin sometime after immigrating to the United States and before George was born... Their 1931 show Of Thee I Sing won a Pulitzer Prize... Now considered a classic of American theater, the Gershwins' Porgy and Bess (1935) was a financial failure.

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