George Gershwin was one of the most famous American composers of all time, writing mostly for musicals. However he combined many of his techniques in classical music with jazz and popular music.
He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1898, and mostly grew up in the Yiddish Theatre District (occasionally appearing as an extra). He didn’t have a musical upbringing, and only became interested at the age of 10 after hearing a friends violin recital. It was at that time that his parents bought a second hand piano for his elder brother Ida and to Ida’s relief George’s interest distracted from his lack of it.
Around 1913 George was introduced to Charles Hambitzer after a few frustrating years of trying to find a decent piano teacher. Charles remained Gershwin’s musical mentor until his death in 1918.
At only 17 years old Gershwin achieved his first published song – “When You Want ‘Em, You Can’t Get ‘Em, When You’ve Got ‘Em, You Don’t Want ‘Em” . It earned him 50 cents! By 1919 his achieved his first BIG national hit with his song ‘Swanee’.
He was commissioned to write music for the film ‘Shall we Dance’ starring the very popular Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in 1936. This was an extensive piece in which George married ballet and jazz together, taking many months.
In 1937 George began to complain of headaches and experienced various out of character incidents – mood swings. pushing someone out of a car, coordination problems … blackouts whilst performing. On 9th July 1937 he collapsed and was diagnosed with a brain tumour, despite an operation to remove it, he died 2 days later at the young age of 38.
Why not take a look at a few of the arrangements that we have on Music Scores including I’ve Got Rhythm.