Happy Birthday, George Gershwin! (26th September 1898 - ∞)
Undoubtedly, one of the greatest contributors to American musical theatre is the talented George Gershwin. From a brash, cocky Tin Pan Alley piano-pounder to the composer and conductor of the groundbreaking folk opera Porgy and Bess, George went a long, long way — and paved the path he took with gold and riches. He brought jazz into concert halls, first, with his daring and famous “Rhapsody in Blue”, and then following it with the concerto “An American in Paris”. There was no such distinction as “respectable music” to George. All that he cared about was good music.
And that was what he composed. Aside from his concert hall works, George maintained a career as the hottest composer on Broadway, writing hit show after hit show. He was best friends with Fred Astaire — who sang and danced to many of his compositions on the New York stage, like “Fascinating Rhythm”, “My One and Only”, and “I Love Your Funny Face”. With his brother Ira, who wrote the lyrics, the Gershwins quickly sealed their place as one of the legendary songwriting teams.
Aside from his composing, George was often described as suave and charming. He would be seen chain-smoking cigarettes, leaning against a wall, at a party, but always politely removed the cigarette and his hat whenever talking to a lady. When he went to Paris, he would carry a cane and act like a gentleman. Armani suits and Cartier watches comprised George’s wardrobe — as well as tennis shorts and shoes. He wasn’t just nimble with the piano; he was an avid tennis player and played a mean game of golf and table tennis, too.
But underneath the sophisticated exterior, George really was a simple man. He famously said, “My people are American, my time is today…music must repeat the thought and aspirations of the times.” He believed in jazz as a truly American form of art, and it became the form of music that he lived by and composed by. Without him, we wouldn’t have all these amazing and enjoyable tunes — so, thanks, George.
Thanks a million for everything you gave us.