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George Gershwin

September 26, 1898 - July 11, 1937
born in Brooklyn, NY, composed during the Modern period
The great musical border crosser of the twentieth century, George Gershwin excelled in the fields of concert music and popular song alike. The son of Jewish immigrants from Russia, he was born Jacob Gershvin in Brooklyn on September 26, 1898. His father ran a great variety of small businesses, and George, in the words of the New Grove Dictionary of Music, "excelled at street sports." He also studied the piano and was introduced to the European classics by his teacher, Charles Hambitzer.

Gershwin immersed himself in popular music after dropping out of school in 1914 and getting a job as a salesman for the music publisher Remick. He was influenced by ragtime and stride piano music, and as a songwriter enjoyed his first hit in 1920 with "Swanee," recorded by the leading vocalist of the time, Al Jolson. Gershwin and his brother Ira became one of the great creative teams in the history of music, each attuned to the considerable subtleties of which the other was capable. Their 1924 musical Lady, Be Good gained wide familiarity thanks to its hit song, "Fascinating Rhythm." Gershwin also wrote works for the concert hall: Rhapsody in Blue (1924), best known in an orchestration by Ferde Grofé; the Piano Concerto in F of 1925; and 1928's An American in Paris have been audience favorites since their respective premieres. Probably Gershwin's most famous work was the uncategorizable Porgy and Bess; "folk opera" was an early attempt at description. Set among African-American residents of Charleston, South Carolina, Porgy and Bess includes the song "Summertime," heavily recorded by both popular and classical artists.

Gershwin continued to write popular songs and musicals; 1930 brought the successful show Girl Crazy and its catchy yet strikingly complex hit number "I Got Rhythm." The 1932 show Of Thee I Sing was especially notable for its crackling political satire. Gershwin went to Hollywood in 1936 to write for the RKO film studio. In mid-1937 he began to complain of headaches, but doctors chalked his symptoms up to stress. In reality he was suffering from a brain tumor; he died on July 11, 1937.

The question of Gershwin's status as a classical composer is a live and productive one. Some observers have pointed out the strong resemblances between his popular and concert idioms, and it is certainly true that for all his studies of the classics over the years, Gershwin rarely wrestled with the problem of large-scale form, which one might regard as classical music's most definitive quest. His concert pieces consist of sequences of great melodies -- perhaps expected in a piece called a "rhapsody" but less impressive for music aspiring to the status of "concerto" or even "tone poem," as An American in Paris was classified. Yet it was not only the American public that loved Gershwin's concert works. They were widely performed in Europe, where they shaped the jazz inflections that began to creep into the music of such composers as Maurice Ravel. Even the proponents of the difficult 12-tone system admired Gershwin's music: Gershwin hobnobbed with Alban Berg in Paris and played tennis with Arnold Schoenberg in Hollywood. "It seems to me beyond doubt that Gershwin was an innovator," Schoenberg wrote, and perhaps history will judge Gershwin as the first harbinger of a new music neither classical nor popular, drawing techniques from many sources and forms of musical knowledge. Who could ask for anything more? ~ Rovi Staff, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: Gershwin: Piano Concerto, Rhapsodies, I Got Rhythm Variations / Sheffer, Eos Ensemble


Track List: Digital George: A Collection Of Gershwin Classics

Title: Variations On "I Got Rhythm" For Piano And Orchestra (or 2 Pianos)
Title: Lullaby, For String Quartet
Title: Short Story, For Violin & Piano
Title: Preludes (3) For Piano
Title: Strike Up The Band, Musical (first Version)
Title: Two Waltzes In C, For Piano
Title: Rhapsody In Blue, For Piano & Orchestra
Title: Rialto Ripples, Rag For Piano

Track List: Gershwin Without Words

Title: Girl Crazy, Musical
Title: Lady, Be Good!, Musical
Title: Love Is Here To Stay, Song (from The Goldwyn Follies, Film)
Title: A Foggy Day (in London Town), Song (from A Damsel In Distress, Film)
Title: Funny Face, Musical
Title: Love Walked In, Song (From The The Goldwyn Follies, Film)
Title: Oh, Kay!, Musical
Title: Lady, Be Good!, Musical
Title: Girl Crazy, Musical
Title: Lady, Be Good!, Musical
Title: Girl Crazy, Musical
Title: Of Thee I Sing, Musical
Title: Girl Crazy, Musical
Title: Show Girl, Musical
Title: Girl Crazy, Musical
Title: Porgy And Bess: A Symphonic Picture (arr. Robert Russell Bennett)
Title: Strike Up The Band, Song (from Strike Up The Band; Both Versions)

Track List: Gershwin: Piano Cto in F/Rhapsody in Blue in C (Hybr)


Track List: Gershwin: Piano Duets

Title: Second Rhapsody, For Piano & Orchestra ("Rhapsody In Rivets")
Title: Variations On "I Got Rhythm" For Piano And Orchestra (or 2 Pianos)
Title: Two Waltzes In C, For Piano
Title: Blue Monday (Opera À La Afro-American), Opera (orig. Incl. In George White's Scandals Of 1922)
Title: Our Love Is Here To Stay, Song (from The Goldwyn Follies, Film)
Title: Embraceable You, Song (from Girl Crazy, Musical)
Title: Rialto Ripples, Rag For Piano
Title: An American In Paris, Tone Poem For Orchestra

Track List: Gershwin: Piano Music

Title: Gershwin Song-Book, Song Transcriptions (18) For Piano
Title: Rialto Ripples, Rag For Piano
Title: Preludes (3) For Piano
Title: Impromptu In Two Keys, For Piano
Title: Three-Quarter Blues, For Piano ("Irish Waltz", Melody No. 32)
Title: Merry Andrew, Dance For Piano
Title: Piano Playin' Jazzbo Brown (Jasbo Brown Blues)
Title: Promenade
Title: I'll Build A Stairway To Paradise, Song (from George White's Scandals Of 1922)
Title: How Long Has This Been Going On?, Song (from Rosalie, Musical)
Title: By Strauss, Song (used In Vernon Duke, The Show Is On, Revue)
Title: Someone To Watch Over Me, Song (from Oh, Kay!, Musical)
Title: Nice Work If You Can Get It, Song (from A Damsel In Distress, Film)
Title: The Man I Love, Song (from Strike Up The Band, 1st Version; Orig. Composed For Lady, Be Good!)
Title: Just Another Rhumba, Song (composed For Film The Goldwyn Follies, But Not Used)
Title: Isn't It A Pity?, Song (from Pardon My English, Musical)
Title: They All Laughed, Song (from Shall We Dance?, Film)
Title: Love Is Here To Stay, Song (from The Goldwyn Follies, Film)

Track List: Gershwin: Porgy and Bess

Disc 1
Title: Porgy And Bess, Opera
Disc 3

Track List: Gershwin: Porgy and Bess; Second Rhapsody; Concerto in F


Track List: Gershwin: Rhapsody In Blue; Concerto In F; An American In Paris


Track List: Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue; Piano Concerto; Song-Book (Complete)

Title: Rhapsody In Blue, For Piano & Orchestra
Title: Gershwin Song-Book, Song Transcriptions (18) For Piano
Title: Concerto In F, For Piano & Orchestra


What a great story, to bad hi dyed so Yong. My father was a popular musician in El Salvador. Dyed at 89. God bless them.
fun, exciting, happy, everlasting, who could ask for anything more, how about summertime
:-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)
Genius. Pure, once-in-a-li f e t i m e genius. MAN I wish I could play Rapsody in Blue<3<3<3<3
i heard this on fantasia! fantastique
George Gershwin's music is timeless, a true genius and his music will forever be enjoyed!
George Gershwin is great!
The first time I heard Rhapsody in Blue was when I watched Fantasia and I feel in the love with it. It's a fun piece!
His songs are written in my key:F; talk about singing in good company
My piano teacher introduced me to Gershwin's music when I was 10. It changed my life and my connection to orchestal music! Can still play "the Man I Love" 50 years later. He's simply the best!!
Real music
Its so much better than pop music today lol
blue_oasisbt d 6 1 6 1
I love how his music was so revolutionar y for that time period & how it has great connection to the African American culture & the Harlem Renaissance
I wish I could play this well.
He dropped out of school at 16. True genius doesn't need the regimen of school it needs the freedom to breathe, to explore itself, and to grow, Only then will it gift us it's breathtaking beauty as this man did.
gershonweiss m a n
Hearing this I can close my eyes and see all of Manhattan with the bustling movement, contemplativ e moments at night in a great restaurant, then on to a jazz club, then with the syncopation, confusion, but with people here and there and then an inspiring uplifting flourish...w h o could ask for anything more. What a joy! I enjoy it over and over again played by the great master pianists and even in the smaller venues.
This is such an amazing man! His music is beautiful! ♥♥
Wow just wow
My favorite song of all time. It just sounds like America. A true Masterpiece!
Just love Gershwin's Music!!
In that photograph he kinda looks like Jim Moriarty...
Oh my Gersh this is a great composer. Gotta love these puns though...
Rhapsody in Blue is one of the best songs that has ever been performed. It not only rivals classical artists, it is a step ahead of them. I think that bossa nova music is Brazil's equivalent to Gershwin's music. Both are beautiful.
This is the best song is great to keep me relaxed and happy. George Gershwin is my favorite composer in the world! #1is George! I'm such a huge fan! Love this song the most.
Have byeen long time fan of Gershwin! I help pay for my grandson Brad piano lessons and when he was 10 we were in music store to pick up some of his music. I saw Rapsody in Blue and pulled it out and turn to Brad, When you learn to play this let me know and I will be there. In his Jr yr. at college. We had pleasure of hearing him and orch. perform. Out of that came contact with
NY stage. Today he is 28 and working as player, conductor, and arranger, and preps singers for
One of the greatest modern classics. Such a beautiful song and fantastic rendition. I wish I met the Gershwin brothers. I bet they were fun to hang out with. I know one of them met death at a young age. How fortunate they left such a fabulous legacy for us all to hear. Just gorgeous. My early music education included these compositions and left an indelible print on my idea of what "music" is.
Love this song so much. So moving.
Gershwin is a winner. A Gershwinner. Ha ha. Seriously though, he's fab.
Was seven the first time I heard Gershwin and I was hooked, then I learned he had died and I was ticked! Living in a small No. CA town, I went to the George Gershwin Story every day until it left town. I'm still hooked. thx
I love how his music tells stories as it moves along. It's so pleasing to the ear. It's lovely.
Two years later, Copland's Centennial was featured in the same way. Two icons who painted the American landscape with their itinerary, I became a fan of not only Gershwin, but of the Symphony. It was serendipidou s to arrive at the theater that spring afternoon. I've never looked back!
It was early spring in 1998. I was a fledgling house framer living in the mid-west when I saw the marquee proclaiming "Gershwin: Tribute." I swung the truck around to get a ticket at the sumptuously remodeled Ohio Theater. To my surprise, it was the centennial celebration of his birth and they featured him all summer and fall amidst the thick, red tapestry of this unique concert hall! I went to every illustrious show becoming a fan of not only Gershwin, but soon of the Symphony. Two years later
Love it!
My #2.... Right behind Copland's Appalachian Spring.
George Gershwin is the epitome of American music! His music has lasted for generations and will last for many more!
He lived just as long as Chopin did. Interesting to think of what they would have done if they had lived longer.
love Rhapsody in Blue. I was introduced to it via the 5 Browns. It's so light and peppy. A nice little tune. This guy is a genius. He's got magic fingers!
I first heard this piece more than 50 years ago and it never gets old, it only gets better!
Every time I hear this it reminds me of my favorite Comedy Tom & Jerry :) so good it's one of the only songs that put me in a relaxed feeling.
As a seven-year-o l d I heard Gershwin for the first time; my parents let me go see The Gershwin Story every day it was in town. Wish he could have live longer.. .
Gershwin epitomizes the early 20th Century sound of America - Eternal optimism and bon vivant passion!
Our boy's certainly internationa l . Not Paul Whiteman, but close. thx
Rhapsody in Blue has got to be one of the greatest compositions of all time (modern and classical). I saw it done live by Fazil Say in Baltimore and was absolutely mesmerised. The Gershwins; what a gift to music!
Response to bibow42: Not just a guy - George Gershwin, not just a city - NYC!
Imagine what additional treasures American music would have if he had lived longer...if only to just age 40 or 50.
It sounds like a guy in a city
Mother was an opera singer father played piano with Schonberg yet it was the old tv cartoons that introduced me to such craft on a footing that went well with Honeycomb and Cap't Crunch!
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