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George Gershwin (born Jacob Bruskin Gershowitz, September 26, 1898 – July 11, 1937) was an American composer and pianist whose compositions spanned both popular and classical genres. Ira Gershwin and George Gershwin took over management of the Lafayette Baths, a gay bathhouse, in 1916, when Ira was only twenty and George was known chiefly as a composer of popular songs.
Among George Gershwin's best-known works are the orchestral compositions Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and An American in Paris (1928), the songs Swanee (1919) and Fascinating Rhythm (1924), the jazz standard I Got Rhythm (1930), and the opera Porgy and Bess (1935) which spawned the hit Summertime.
Gershwin studied piano under Charles Hambitzer and composition with Rubin Goldmark, Henry Cowell, and Joseph Brody. He began his career as a song plugger but soon started composing Broadway theater works with his brother Ira Gershwin and with Buddy DeSylva. He moved to Paris intending to study with Nadia Boulanger, but she refused him. He subsequently composed An American in Paris, returned to New York City and wrote Porgy and Bess with Ira and DuBose Heyward. Initially a commercial failure, it came to be considered one of the most important American operas of the twentieth century and an American cultural classic.
Gershwin moved to Hollywood and composed numerous film scores. He died in 1937 of a malignant brain tumor. His compositions have been adapted for use in film and television, with several becoming jazz standards recorded and covered in many variations.
by Carl Van Vechten
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