Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Life & Music of GEORGE GERSHWIN

Even though George Gershwin's life was sadly cut short by a brain tumor when he was only 38 years old, his music still lives on in the hearts and minds of the world today. Some of his most famous works included "Rhapsody in Blue" and "They Can't Take That Away From Me." His storied career includes many other notable highlights and achievements over the course of his brief life.

George Gershwin
Photo  by cliff1066™ 
George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn, New York to Ukrainian Jewish immigrants on September 26, 1898. He was named Jacob Gershowitz at birth. The family name was later Americanized by George to facilitate his show business career. Many of his other family members followed suit and changed their names accordingly. Gershwin had three siblings in his family.

George Gershwin revealed his talent for music at an early age. At the tender age of 10, Gershwin attended his friend Max Rosen's violin recital. He was absolutely fascinated by the passion behind the performance. He loved the sound of the instrument and the skilled nuance with which Rosen performed.

The Gershwin parents had bought a piano for George's older brother, Ira. George came home from the violin recital and was determined to learn to play an instrument, so he began tinkering around with Ira's piano at home. He learned the instrument quickly, so his parents were happy to help him find a suitable professional for a piano teacher.

The search for a piano teacher for young George Gershwin took nearly two years. He finally settled on Charles Hambitzer, who influenced Gershwin's musical life immensely. He taught Gershwin formal techniques and formal European music. Gershwin would attend classical music performances with Hambitzer, and he was often able to reproduce the melodies on the piano when he would return home. Hambitzer acted as Gershwin's mentor until the time of his death in 1918.

At 15, Gershwin dropped out of school to become a song plugger for Jerome H. Remick and Company, a firm from New York City's famed Tin Pan Alley. The position earned him $15 a week, but more importantly, it positioned him well in the music industry.

By 1916, Gershwin published his first song, entitled, "When You Want 'Em, You Can't Get 'Em, When You've Got 'Em, You Don't Want Em." He was 17 years old.

He followed up his release in 1916 with a 1917 release of "Rialto Ripples," which was a commercial success. In 1918, he released "Swanee." In 1924, Gershwin began his foray into musicals, a pursuit that would make him forever famous. He penned "Lady Be Good" and "Fascinating Rhythm" that year.

Follow-up musicals in subsequent years included "Oh Kay," "Funny Face," "Strike Up the Band," "Show Girl," "Girl Crazy," "I Got Rhythm," "Porgy and Bess" and "Of Thee I Sing." The latter of the group won the esteemed Pulitzer Prize.

Gershwin's success on Broadway eventually led to calls from Hollywood movie studios. He moved out to California to do some film work. While out in Hollywood, he began complaining of headaches in early 1937. Sadly, during his work on a film entitled "The Goldwyn Follies," George Gershwin collapsed due to a malignant brain tumor. He later died following a surgery to remove the tumor on July 11, 1937.

Although his life was tragically cut short, George Gershwin's legacy will always live on through his music. From timeless hits to musicals, his melodies still resonate in popular culture. His influence will be felt for decades to come.

No comments: