Personalities | George Gershwin | Twenties | Jazz & Blues
(Piano, composer, 1898â€“1937)
One of the most enduringly popular composers of the twentieth century, Gershwin composed such enduring melodies as â€˜Summertimeâ€™, â€˜Embraceable Youâ€™ and â€˜Letâ€™s Call The Whole Thing Offâ€™. His tuneful songs with their rich harmonic progressions are ideal for improvisation and were popular with jazz musicians including Louis Armstrong, Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Coleman Hawkins and Miles Davis.
A self-taught pianist, 15-year-old Gershwin was the youngest songwriter on Tin Pan Alley. He and his lyricist brother Ira scored their first big hit in 1919 with â€˜Swaneeâ€™ for Al Jolson. From 1919â€“33 they produced a succession of musicals, including the first Pulitzer Prize-winning musical comedy, Of Thee I Sing (1931). In 1924, George wrote Rhapsody In Blue as a concerto for piano and the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. His success with this work led to the 1928 tone poem An American In Paris and his 1935 â€˜folk operaâ€™ Porgy and Bess. The Gershwins went to Hollywood in 1936 but George died of a brain tumour the following year. Ira continued to work as a lyricist until retiring in 1960.
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