George Gershwin, born in Brooklyn, New York on 26 September 1898, was born the second of four children of Morris and Rose Gershovitz, Russians who immigrated to New York in 1891. George and his family lived on Manhattan's lower east side in a poor Jewish community. After settling down in New York, his father changed the family name to Gershvin. It was George who later altered his last name to Gershwin when he entered the professional world of music. Most of his family was not musically talented, but his brother Ira became a wonderful well-known musician.
Most of Gershwin's early childhood was spent playing sports, which he was good at, and it interested him. It wasn't until Gershwin was 12 years old when he first felt his calling as a musician. It all started when his family purchased an upright piano and Gershwin quickly learned to play it. Uninterested in his regular academic studies, Gershwin focused primarily on studying the theory of music and harmony. Gershwin never even completed high school. Continuing his musical studies with a composer named Henry Conwell and music theorist Joseph Schillinger, Gershwin's ability to play and compose music rose remarkably.
Gershwin left his musical studies at the age of 15 to join music publisher Jerome K. Rimick as a song-plugger and piano player with Tin Pan Alley. During this time, Gershwin continued trying his hand at composition, and in 1916, he published his first song When you want 'em, you can't get 'em, when you got 'em, you don't want 'em. This same year, he also began making piano rolls, many being under a pseudonym.
It wasn't long before Gershwin left Rimick and found other means of expanding his musical career. In 1917, he began traveling the vaudeville circuit as a pianist. Shortly thereafter, he was hired to write songs for the head of the publishing house T.B. arms, Max Dryfus, and he toured as an accompanist for musician Nora Bayes.
Gershwin began to get a few of his songs set into current musical shows and his popularity began to grow. His first big success came in 1919 when Al Jolson helped him promote Swanee by adding tit to his touring show. This same year, Gershwin also
completed his first Broadway show La, La, Lucille.
During the 1920's, Gershwin's popularity grew as he began writing successful musicals f...
... middle of paper ...
...iteman and his jazz band. This piece of music had a classical form in which Gershwin applied the jazz idiom.
Gershwin wrote on his greatest operas in 1922, called Blue Monday. This piece was written for an African-American opera called George White's Scandals. After only one single performance in New York, it was withdrawn due it seriousness being out of place in it's context and misunderstood. Blue Monday was later retitled 135th Street. Many years after Gershwin's death, Blue Monday was revived at a omprehensive festival during 1970 given to Gershwin in Miami, Florida. Here, Blue Monday's popularity was made.
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie, 20 vols. (London: Macmillan, 1980)16: 752-774
Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, ed. Nicolas Sloninsky, 7th ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1984)817-818
The International Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians, ed. Oscar Thompson, 10th ed. (New York: Dodd, Mead and Co.)1968-1993
Percy A. Scholes, The Oxford Companion to Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 1943)360
David Ewen, George Gershwin: His Journey to Greatness (New Jersey: Printice-Hall Inc., 1970)
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