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Category Archives: Ira Gershwin

Language in Porgy and Bess: The Challenge of Representing Gullah

Following Heather L. Hodges’s fantastic guest post about the Gullah Geechee culture that the Gershwins and Heywards portray in Porgy and Bess, we turn to one of the opera’s most contended aspects: its treatment of the Gullah language. In this post, our managing editor, Andrew S. Kohler, explores how the work’s text came to be so far removed from Gullah, and how future performances may approach the inconsistent libretto so as to give Gullah culture and language the respect they are due. The language of Porgy and Bess is a far cry from that of the Gullah community of Charleston […]

Introducing a New Series: The Past and Future of Porgy and Bess

Despite being among the most prominent operas of the twentieth century, and perhaps the Gershwin brothers’ most monumental achievement, Porgy and Bess occupies an uneasy place in US musical history. In this series, Managing Editor Andrew S. Kohler, Ph.D. and blog team leader Kai West explore the opera’s complex and at times problematic representations of race, gender, disability, and class, connecting Porgy and Bess to today’s conversations about social justice. The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (1935), a collaboration with DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, contains many of the Gershwins’ most beloved numbers: “My Man’s Gone Now,” “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’,” […]

“And His Lovely Wife, Ira”

By Sarah Sisk Ira Gershwin, Pulitzer-prize-winning lyricist and supplier of words to some of the most iconic songs in American musical history, may often be referred to as “the other Gershwin”, overshadowed by the popularity of his younger brother George. But while Ira may not always get the attention he deserves, the disparity in the Gershwin brothers’ respective notorieties has led to a sixty-year-running Gershwin joke—and of course poor Ira is the butt of it. The story goes that in the 1950s, a radio disk jockey, when playing a piece written by the Gershwin brothers, attributed the song to “George […]

Rhapsody in. . . who?

In today’s post, Frances traces some of the various transformations (or potential misprints) of the Gershwin family name. George and Ira’s father arrived in New York in 1890 still accompanied by his Russian Jewish name: Moishe Gershovitz. Moishe soon changed his name to the much more Americanized Morris Greshevin, as was frequently the custom with immigrants’ names upon arriving in America. Morris’s wife, Roza Bruskin, similarly became known as simply Rose. By the time of their union in 1895, their marriage license read “Gershvin.” In the 1900 US census, two years after George’s birth, Morris was back to using the […]

“Our Love is Here to Stay”: Language, Gender, Brotherly Love, and Sexual Politics

“ Love is Here to Stay” has been a celebrated jazz standard for more than six decades, and it is most often treated as a straightforward love ballad. However, the lack of gendered language in its lyrics opens up the possibility for alternative interpretations, as well as creative and political performances. By Megan Hill, Ph.D. The presence of gendered language (he/she/him/her, man/woman, etc.) in song lyrics provides the opportunity for people concerned with gender and sexuality politics to perform the song in order to make political statements, regardless of whether or not the song’s composer and/or lyricist had such politics […]

An American Lost in Paris: Gershwin Navigating the Classical Sphere

  George Gershwin is well-known for his mixed use of popular and traditional idioms. But what was his personal attitude towards contemporary composers, and how did this influence his approach towards composition? Take a look at how An American in Paris, situated at a critical point in George’s career, reflects both his developing tastes and shifting musical ambitions. By Cassidy Goldblatt George Gershwin began his career in the streets of Tin Pan Alley and Broadway, writing songs inspired by his love of jazz. Yet popular genres could only capture his attention for so long, and he soon felt the itch […]

From Flop to Top: The Story of “I’ve Got a Crush On You”

  George and Ira Gershwin’s song “I’ve Got a Crush on You” is arguably one of their most famous creations. However, few people know that what made the song a hit was a change from a fast-tempo, Broadway dance piece into a leisurely, sentimental ballad. By: Rachel Fernandes “I’ve Got a Crush on You” I’ve got a crush on you, sweetie pie All the day and night time give me sigh I never had the least notion that I could fall with so much emotion Could you coo, could you care? For a cunning cottage we could share The world […]

Farewells, Photographs, and Affections: A letter from Ira to DuBose

  After George Gershwin’s death, Ira writes a letter to DuBose Heyward passing along his and George’s respect and affection for the author.  Take a look at Ira’s letter of August 2, 1937, to DuBose, held at the South Carolina Historical Society. By Frances Sobolak By the middle of 1937, just shy of two years after the premiere of Porgy and Bess, George Gershwin’s growing brain tumor, undetected at the time, was causing him severe headaches and fainting spells. On July 11, after having fallen into a coma two days before, George underwent extensive brain surgery—but the 38-year-old composer passed […]

You[Tube] Can’t Take That Away From Me: New Video from Piano Dedication Concert Posted on Our YouTube Channel

  Just a brief post today to highlight some new videos from the U-M Gershwin Piano Dedication concert that are now up on our YouTube channel. We are so pleased to have Gershwin’s priceless instrument here at U-M where students perform on it regularly, and will be releasing more footage from the concert in the weeks to come. Today we have two videos for you to enjoy featuring two of the Gershwins’ beloved songs: “You Can’t Take That Away From Me” from Shall We Dance (1937), and “My Man’s Gone Now” from Porgy and Bess (1935). “You Can’t Take That […]

Lady Be Good! The Making of the Gershwin Musical Comedy Machine

George and Ira Gershwin were enjoying increasing success in the early 1920s, but they had yet to write a hit show together. Lady Be Good is the story of how a single show changed the future of their careers and the future of Broadway’s musical theater. By Sarah Sisk 1924 was a good year for the Gershwin brothers. That February had seen the premiere and subsequent popular success of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. It was also the year that Ira Gershwin, who had been working with George and other composers to write song lyrics for musical theater, decided to […]

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