George Gershwin

Classical Music / Great Composers

American composer and songwriter. Gershwin's works include theatre musicals and jazz classical music. He’s famous for Rhapsody in Blue and Porgy & Bess.

American composer and songwriter, as well as pianist and conductor, George Gershwin was a sensitive and passionate musician, who synthesized his musical creations between jazz and classical traditions. He is famous for the sophistication, swing and rhythm in his music.

George Gershwin in a Nutshell

He was born in Brooklyn, New York on September 26, 1898. As one of America’s greatest songwriters, George Gershwin was part of the golden age of the New York musical theatre in the 1920s and 30s. Essentially self-taught, he started as a song plugger in Tin Pan Alley and an accompanist. Perhaps not known to many, Gershwin also painted as a hobby.

Jazz as a Springboard 
With his love for jazz, his songwriting talent, and knowledge of established forms in concerto and opera, he began to compose songs and produced succession of musicals from 1919 to 1933, with his first show La Lucille, the song “Swanee” was made a hit by Al Jolson, on of the top singer during that time.

Classical Music and Musicals

His concert works include the tone poems Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and An American in Paris (1928). He composed other popular musicals and songs to this day, many with lyrics by his brother Ira Gershwin (1896-1983), including "I Got Rhythm," "’S Wonderful," and "Embraceable You."

The success of Rhapsody in Blue led him to devote more to “serious” composition, resulting with The Piano Concerto in F (1925) and An American in Paris (1928). About this time, he met Igor Stravinsky, Sergey Prokofiev and Ravel in Paris.

Theatre and Broadway Hits

He continued composing for the musical theatre, his music becoming some of the most successful in Broadway including Strike up the Band, Funny Face, Girl Crazy, and Of Thee I Sing with lyrics by Ira, his talented lyricist brother. Of Thee I Sing became the first stage musical to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1932. Unfortunately, George Gershwin was not included in the citation since his was a musical contribution and therefore was not considered eligible for a Pulitzer award, literary in nature.

Gershwin Final Years 

His “American folk opera” Porgy and Bess in 1935 incorporated jazz rhythms and popular song styles in an operatic format. In 1936, he went to Hollywood where his talent was much acknowledged. He wrote numerous songs for films. He was working on music for The Goldwyn Follies when stricken with a brain tumor that took his life on July 11, 1937, before reaching his 39th birthday. 


I've been blest as chorister at Sydney Philharmonia Choirs where our SPC - Festival Chorus in collaboration with Squabbalogic Music Theatre Company successfully performed George and Ira Gershwin's Of Thee I Sing, the first musical to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1932.  Enjoy with us whilst listening, here's a sneak peek of our  exhilarating rehearsals for Of Thee I Sing that we performed Sept 26 and 27, 2015, Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House. A special occasion to celebrate George Gershwin's birthday.  Conductor: SPC Artistic Director Brett Weymark. Rehearsal Accompanist: Chris Cartner. 

Image Credit:
George Gershwin. Public Domain. 

Video Credit:
George Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue. Youtube, uploaded by Fledermaus1990. Accesed September 26, 2017.

Latham, Alison, editor. The Oxford Companion to Music, Oxford: OUP, 2002
Sadie, Stanley, editor. The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music. London: Macmillan Press, 1994
Kennedy, Michael, editor. The Oxford Dictionary of Music, 2nd Edition. Oxford: OUP, 1994 

Note:  I originally wrote and published this article at, September 26, 2008.  I'm posting it here at Inspired Pen Web with enhancements. / Tel  

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