George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn in 1898, the second of four children from a close-knit immigrant family. He began his musical career as a song-plugger on Tin Pan Alley, but was soon writing his own pieces. Gershwin’s first published song, “When You Want ‘Em, You Can’t Get ‘Em,” demonstrated innovative new techniques, but only earned him five dollars. Soon after, however, he met a young lyricist named Irving Ceaser. Together they composed a number of songs including “Swanee,” which sold more than a million copies.
In 1924, George collaborated with his brother, lyricist Ira Gershwin, on a musical comedy “Lady Be Good”. It included such standards as “Fascinating Rhythm” and “The Man I Love.” While continuing to compose popular music for the stage, Gershwin began to lead a double life, trying to make his mark as a serious composer.
When he was 25 years old, his jazz-influenced “Rhapsody in Blue” premiered in New York’s Aeolian Hall at the concert, “An Experiment in Music.” Gershwin followed this success with his orchestral works “Piano Concerto in F", "Rhapsody No. 2″ and “An American in Paris”.
In the early thirties, Gershwin experimented with some new ideas in Broadway musicals. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his musical, “Of Thee I Sing.” In 1935 he presented a folk opera “Porgy and Bess” in Boston with only moderate success. Now recognized as one of the major works of American opera.
In 1937, after many successes on Broadway, George and Ira Gershiwn decided go to Hollywood. After becoming ill while working on a film, he had plans to return to New York to work on writing serious music. He planned a string quartet, a ballet and another opera, but these pieces were never written. At the age of 38, he died of a brain tumor. Today he remains one of America’s most beloved popular musicians.
Listen to "An American in Paris"