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  Founder: Len Mullenger

b New York, 26 September 1898
d Hollywood, 11 July 1937, aged thirty-eight

He was the second of three children of Russian immigrants; the eldest, Ira, was a great lyric-writer with whom George collaborated all his life. From an early age he listened to all the music he could, particularly ragtime and jazz; he had piano lessons, intending to become a concert pianist- an ambition that was never fulfilled. He left school at the age of fifteen and joined the staff of Remick's, a Tin Pan Alley publisher. There, influenced by such popular composers as Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin, he began writing for the theatre. He wrote his first song in 1916, and his first big success was with the song 'Swannee' in 1919. Since he had only a limited knowledge of music technique and, indeed, never became very proficient at reading music - the actual writing and arranging was largely done by other people, notably Fernand Grofe. Paul Whiteman encouraged him to compose a jazz concerto, and the result, in 1924, was the Rhapsody in Blue, orchestrated by Grofe who was Whiteman's arranger. His reputation as a master of serious music brought a commission from Walter Damrosch for the Concerto in F (1925) and An American in Paris (1928). Their success led to other large-scale orchestral pieces and ultimately to his masterpiece, the opera Porgy and Bess (1934-5). Otherwise his fame lies with his songs and the great number of musicals and films he wrote with his brother Ira. He died of a brain tumour.

1919 (21)

Lullaby, for string quartet

La La Lucille, musical

Morris Gest Midnight Whirl, musical

1920 (22)

George White's Scandals of 1920, musical

Broadway Brevities of 1920 (including song 'Swannee')

1921 (23)

A Dangerous Maid, musical

George White's Scandals of 1921, musical

1922 (24)

George White's Scandals of 1922, musical

Blue Monday Blues (also called 135th Street), opera

Our Nell, musical

1923 (25)

The Rainbow, musical

George White's Scandals of 1923, musical

1924 (26)

Rhapsody in Blue (arr Grofe), for piano and orchestra

Sweet Little Devil, musical

George White's Scandals of 1924, musical

Primrose, musical

Lady, Be Good, musical (including song 'Fascinating Rhythm')

1925 (27)

Novelettes, for violin and piano

Concerto in F for piano and orchestra

Tell Me More, musical

Tip-Toes, musical

Song of the Flame, musical

Oh, Kay!, musical (including songs 'Do, Do, Do' and 'Someone to Watch Over Me')

1926 (28)

Preludes for piano

1927 (29)

Strike Up The Band, musical

Funny Face, musical (including songs 'He Loves and She Loves' and 'Swonderful')

1928 (30)

An American In Paris, for orchestra

Rosalie, musical

Treasure Girl, musical

1929 (31)

Show Girl, musical

1930 (32)

Girl Crazy, musical (including songs 'Bidin' My Time', 'Embraceable You' and 'I Got Rhythm')

1931 (33)

Of Thee I Sing, musical

2nd Rhapsody, for piano and orchestra

Delicious, film score

1932 (34)

Cuban Overture, for orchestra

George Gershwin Song-Book, piano arrangement of eighteen songs

1933 (35)

Pardon My English, musical

Let Them Eat Cake, musical

Two Waltzes for piano

1934 (36)

'I Got Rhythm', variations for piano and orchestra

1935 (37)

Porgy and Bess, opera

1936-7 (38-9)

Shall We Dance, film score (including songs 'Let's Call the Whole Thing Off', 'Shall We Dance', 'They Can't Take That Away from Me')

1937 (38)

A Damsel in Distress, film score (including song 'Nice Work if You Can Get It')

Performed posthumously:

1938 The Goldwyn Follies, film score (including song 'Love Walked In')

Gershwin also wrote film music based on his musicals and songs, and many other individual songs.

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