Some people are gifted with long, happy lives. Some are just gifted with long lives, the happiness being questionable. Some people are given short lives, but with the kinds of gifts that are given to very few. Such was the life of George Gershwin. When I was 10 years old, I was asked to do a report on one of the most influential people of the 20th Century. I chose George Gershwin. I was only 10, but I knew genius even then.
When one thinks of George Gershwin, one immediately thinks of concertos and rhapsodies and, truthfully if all George had done was Rhapsody in Blue, and An American in Paris, he would have left his legacy. But, George also composed Porgy and Bess, Second Rhapsody and Cuban Rhapsody. During the course of his magnificent career, George and his gifted lyrist brother, Ira, went to Hollywood and composed some of the most beautiful songs for films. The great Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers sang and danced to this music, and helped relieve the 1930s of the Great Depression.
When George passed away in 1937 at the age of 38, the world mourned. Ira was devastated and his friend, Oscar Levant, grieved with George’s many fans and admirers. George had been complaining of headaches, but everyone thought it was stress. The sad truth was that George was dying but he looked so good and he was just so talented and young. No one could believe that this genius could leave the world so soon.
On Wednesday, March 23rd at 1:00p.m. Eastern/ 10:00a.m. Pacific Time we will pay tribute to George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, Oscar Levant and the music that captivated a nation. Listen for Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris, Porgy and Bess, and more. I once read in a book that “art was the only form of immortality”. George Gershwin proved this with his music.
The talented Oscar Levant both loved, and perhaps resented, the brilliance of his friend George. Oscar was a brilliant musician and pianist. He even composed music, but he recognized that George was in a different plane. Oscar’s personality was brittle, observant, sarcastic and funny. In his later years, he became a raconteur. George must have loved him. Oscar ultimately became one of the foremost interpreters of George Gershwin’s music. I have chosen Oscar’s version of Rhapsody in Blue for this show.
Ira Gershwin lived another 46 years after George’s death. The brothers were so close and one can only imagine how greatly Ira felt this loss both personally and professionally. Ira did go on to write beautiful lyrics for other composers like Harold Arlen and Jerome Kern. In honor of Ira’s life, I have added one of my favorite songs, Long Ago and Far Away, From Rita Hayworth’s movie Cover Girl.
Michael Feinstein, also a gifted performer and musician became a protégée of Ira Gershwin at a very young age. I have included Michael’s songs as well as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and would you believe it, Rod Stewart.
I hope you enjoy this tribute to the Gershwins and the performers who brought their music to life.