George Gershwin


Born: 1898   Died: 1937   Country: USA   Period: 20th Century
In a career tragically cut short in mid-stride by a brain tumor, George Gershwin (1898-1937) proved himself to be not only one of the great songwriters of his extremely rich era, but also a gifted "serious" composer who bridged the worlds of classical and popular music. The latter is all the more striking, given that, of his contemporaries, Gershwin was the most influenced by such styles as jazz and blues.

Gershwin's first
Read more major hit, interpolated into the show Sinbad in 1919, was "Swanee," sung by Al Jolson. Gershwin wrote both complete scores and songs for such variety shoes as George White's Scandals (whose annual editions thus were able to introduce such songs as "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise" and "Somebody Loves Me").

After 1924, Gershwin worked primarily with his brother Ira as his lyricist. The two scored a series of Broadway hits in the '20s and early '30s, starting with Lady Be Good (1924), which included the song "Fascinatin' Rhythm." 1924 was also the year Gershwin composed his first classical piece, "Rhapsody in Blue," and he would continue to work in the classical field until his death.

By the '30s, the Gershwins had turned to political topics and satire in response to the onset of the Depression, and their Of Thee I Sing became the first musical to win a Pulitzer Prize. In the mid '30s, Gershwin ambitiously worked to meld his show music and classical leanings in the creation of the folk opera Porgy and Bess, with lyrics by Ira and Dubose Heyward. The Gershwins had moved to Hollywood and were engaged in several movie projects at the time of George Gershwin's death. Read less

Work: Lady, be Good: Fascinating rhythm


About This Work
This is one of Gershwin's most enduring songs, one which combines a catchy melody and clever lyrics with fascinating musical complexities. It is both polyrhythmic and polymetric (the accompaniment and melody often follow different rhythms and are in Read more different meters), and full of off-beat accents, but surprisingly enough, there are many moments when at least one part is in the standard, plain vanilla meter of 4/4.

The melodic line, while always logical, never random, changes at just the moment when the listener has grasped a particular pattern, forcing his or her concentration, and as often as not, leading to the result that the singer is complaining about, a rhythmic pattern is stuck in his or her head. To test just how insinuating this song is, try listening to it, and then speaking the lyrics in a normal speech pattern, without using the song's accents; the odds are you'll find it nearly impossible! In 1970, George Balanchine used it in his Gershwin ballet, "Who cares?," and it was one of that show's biggest hits.

-- Anne Feeney, All Music Guide Read less

Select a specific Performer, Conductor or Ensemble or browse recordings by Formats & Featured below

ArkivMusic Recommendation

Formats & Featured

Sign up now for two weeks of free access to the world's best classical music collection. Keep listening for only $0.0/month - thousands of classical albums for the price of one! Learn more about ArkivMusic Streaming
Already a subscriber? Sign In