What do you call someone who wrote endearing classical music, some of the greatest popular songs of all time, as well as a number of Broadway’s most memorable hits?
You call him Mr. Gershwin.
Gershwin quit school at age 15 to write songs in New York’s Tin Pan Alley. His first published song didn’t give a hint of the greatness to come. It was called “When You Want ‘Em, You Can’t Get ‘Em, When You’ve Got ‘Em, You Don’t Want ‘Em.” His first hit was “Swanee,” made famous by Al Jolson.
George began working with his brother Ira in 1924, and they produced a string of Broadway hit Broadway productions, including Funny Face, Girl Crazy, and Of Thee I Sing, the first musical comedy to win a Pulitzer Prize (Great American Things, February 19, 2010).
Even while producing popular entertainment, Gershwin was composing some of the twentieth century’s most memorable classical works, including Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris. He also wrote the American opera “Porgy and Bess,” which included some of his most sophisticated compositions, as well as such great songs as “Summertime,” “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin,” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So.”
Unfortunately for music lovers worldwide, Gershwin started experiencing terrible headaches and was diagnosed with brain cancer. He was only 37 when he died. But the impact he had on American music can’t be overstated. In addition to the songs noted above, his compositions also include: “But Not For Me,” “Embraceable You,” “I’ve Got Rhythm,” “I’ve Got a Crush on You,” “Love Walked In,” “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” “They All Laughed,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” and “‘s Wonderful.”
Maybe no one sang Gershwin better than Ella Fitzgerald: