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An American and Hairless

In 1937, George Gershwin bought himself a Crosley XᐧERᐧVAC, the latest mechanized innovation in hair-growth technology. Indeed, he had always been interested in trying out “new principles.” This appetite for the cutting-edge may have gotten him a name as a modern and uniquely American composer, but it had little effect on his receding hair line. By Ellen Sauer On April 20th, 1937, George Gershwin mentioned a strange device in a letter to his dear friend Mabel Schirmer: “I am lying comfortable on a chaise lounge with a new gadget, which I have just bought, on my head. You would probably […]

Second-Rate Rhapsody

Unrefined brilliance may be a thousand times more striking than uninspired finesse, but such realities are not always obvious to the artist at work. How did George Gershwin’s opinions of his Second Rhapsody measure up to those of the public? Read on to find out! By Cassidy Goldblatt “Second-rate: adj., of mediocre or inferior quality.” Applied to George Gershwin’s Second Rhapsody (1931), it’s only a halfway accurate description, applicable more to public sentiment than to the work’s compositional coherence. George described the piece as, “in many respects, such as orchestration and form, . . . the best thing I’ve written,” […]

“But Not For Me” On The Silver Screen

Did you know that “But Not for Me” has been used in many popular films? This song was originally written by George and Ira Gershwin for the 1930 musical Girl Crazy and sung by Ginger Rogers. Judy Garland later sang “But Not for Me” in the 1943 film adaptation of Girl Crazy. Ella Fitzgerald also recorded a cover of this song for her album Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Songbook. Her rendition took home the 1960 Grammy Award for Best Female Vocal Performance. “But Not for Me” has also been featured in many popular movies, including Manhattan (1979), […]

“Raggedy Ann: the Star of ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’”

“Someone to Watch Over Me” is one of George and Ira’s most beloved pieces. Many artists perform it as a love song—but few people know that when it was first performed, it was sung to a Raggedy Ann Doll. By Rachel Fernandes “Someone to Watch Over Me” is one of the Gershwins’ most iconic songs, written by Ira for his wife Leonore in commemoration of their marriage on September 14, 1926. The song made its Broadway debut in the smash hit musical Oh, Kay! (1926). Oh, Kay! is a love story about lady’s man Jimmy Winters who is engaged to […]

Goodbye Blue Laws, Hello “Rhapsody in Blue”

In 1933, a 139-year-old Pennsylvania “Blue Law” that had prohibited the performance of major musical concerts on the Sabbath was repealed. George Gershwin and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra were the first concert after this repeal. The day before George noted, “I dare say that if beer were banished from Austria, 100,000 musicians would be out of work” (St. Petersburg Times, Nov 20th, 1933). On Sunday, Nov 20 1933, they performed Concerto in F, An American in Paris, and, fittingly, Rhapsody in Blue. To top it all off, Gershwin sold the first ticket to the landmark performance date himself, at 2pm […]

The Follies of Show Business

The celebrated Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. put on countless Broadway shows during his career, one of which included a score and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin. Yet in spite of the fact that all three collaborators had admirable reputations, this particular working relationship was a rather unstable one. By Cassidy Goldblatt Those familiar with Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.’s 1929 musical comedy Show Girl know that George Gershwin’s score included his newly completed An American in Paris, arranged to open the second act. What many may not be aware of, however, is the fact that An American in Paris was a last-minute […]

Interview with Timothy McAllister: Gershwin, Adams, and the Orchestral Saxophone

  The Gershwin Initiative’s own Lisa Keeney (lead editorial assistant and saxophonist) sat down in August 2016 to talk with Grammy award-winning saxophonist Timothy McAllister as a promotion for our September 2016 concert with the University of Michigan’s University Symphony Orchestra (USO). The USO premiered both the new edition of Concerto in F and the Unabridged Edition of An American in Paris. This program also featured Adams’ The Chairman Dances, and his Saxophone Concerto with soloist Timothy McAllister, for whom the concerto was written. We are delighted today to bring you the extended cut of the interview.  It is broken into three parts […]

From the Archives: “Dear Mrs. Heyward: A Letter from George to DuBose’s Mother”

DuBose’s mother, Jane Heyward, ventured up to New York City after the premiere of Porgy and Bess, and George Gershwin sent a warm hello her way. By Frances Sobolak Porgy and Bess had its official premiere on September 30th in Boston and its Broadway premiere at the Alvin Theatre in New York City on October 10th. In October 1935, Jane Heyward, DuBose Heyward’s mother, left her abode in Charleston, South Carolina and traveled up to New York City with the intent of, presumably, seeing the newly premiered opera. During Jane’s visit, George Gershwin sent a brief letter to her hotel […]

George and His Friendly Bet

Before Porgy and Bess premiered in September 1935, it seems that George had made a bet in 1922 that he would produce an opera in ten years. According to The Washington Post, he lost this bet by three years! By Rachel Fernandes Two months before Porgy and Bess’s September 1935 premiere, an article in The Washington Post suggested that George Gershwin had lost a long-standing bet: that he would “have an opera produced in ten years.” Gershwin conveniently couldn’t remember with whom he’d made the 1922 wager, and the article—penned 13 years later—cheekily observed that while he had lost this […]

Music by Gershwin—George Gershwin’s Forgotten Radio Program

By Sarah Sisk In 1934, George Gershwin hosted his own radio show, called Music by Gershwin. Although little-known today, this program happens to be crucial to the existence of one of Gershwin’s greatest works, Porgy and Bess. “George Gershwin belonged to the radio age. His genius freshened the life-blood of radio—Music. His growth and triumphs paralleled the magic advances of broadcasting which in a flash introduced his popular melodies to the entire nation.” New York Times, July 18, 1937. So begins a July 18, 1937, New York Times article, written in homage a mere week after the beloved composer’s unexpected […]

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