|Birth name||Israel Gershovitz|
|Also known as||Israel Gershvin|
|Born||December 6, 1896|
Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
|Died||August 17, 1983 86) (aged|
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Ira Gershwin (born Israel Gershovitz; December 6, 1896 – August 17, 1983) was an American lyricist who collaborated with his younger brother, composer George Gershwin, to create some of the most memorable songs in the English language of the 20th century.With George, he wrote more than a dozen Broadway shows, featuring songs such as "I Got Rhythm", "Embraceable You", "The Man I Love" and "Someone to Watch Over Me". He was also responsible, along with DuBose Heyward, for the libretto to George's opera Porgy and Bess .
The success the Gershwin brothers had with their collaborative works has often overshadowed the creative role that Ira played. His mastery of songwriting continued after George's early death in 1937. Ira wrote additional hit songs with composers Jerome Kern, Kurt Weill, Harry Warren and Harold Arlen. His critically acclaimed 1959 book Lyrics on Several Occasions, an amalgam of autobiography and annotated anthology, is an important source for studying the art of the lyricist in the golden age of American popular song.
Gershwin was born at 60 Eldridge St in Manhattan, the oldest of four children of Morris (Moishe) and Rose Gershovitz (née Rosa Bruskin), who were Russian Jews from Saint Petersburg and who had emigrated to the United States in 1891. Ira's siblings were George (Jacob, b. 1898), Arthur (b. 1900), and Frances (b. 1906). Morris changed the family name to "Gershwine" (or alternatively "Gershvin") well before their children rose to fame; it was not spelled "Gershwin" until later. Shy in his youth, Ira spent much of his time at home reading, but from grammar school through college, he played a prominent part in several school newspapers and magazines.
He graduated in 1914 from Townsend Harris High School, a public school for intellectually gifted students, where he met Yip Harburg, with whom he enjoyed a lifelong friendship and a love of Gilbert and Sullivan. He attended the City College of New York but dropped out.
The childhood home of Ira and George Gershwin was in the center of the Yiddish Theater District, on the second floor at 91 Second Avenue, between East 5th Street and East 6th Street. They frequented the local Yiddish theaters.
While George began composing and "plugging" in Tin Pan Alley from the age of 18, Ira worked as a cashier in his father's Turkish baths.It was not until 1921 that Ira became involved in the music business. Alex Aarons signed Ira to write the songs for his next show, Two Little Girls in Blue , ultimately produced by Abraham Erlanger, along with co-composers Vincent Youmans and Paul Lannin. So as not to appear to trade off George's growing reputation, Ira wrote under the pseudonym "Arthur Francis", after his youngest two siblings. His lyrics were well received, allowing him successfully to enter the show-business world with just one show. Later the same year, the Gershwins collaborated for the first time on a score; this was for A Dangerous Maid , which played in Atlantic City and on tour.
It was not until 1924 that Ira and George teamed up to write the music for what became their first Broadway hit Lady, Be Good . Once the brothers joined forces, their combined talents became one of the most influential forces in the history of American Musical Theatre. "When the Gershwins teamed up to write songs for Lady, Be Good, the American musical found its native idiom."Together, they wrote the music for more than 12 shows and four films. Some of their more famous works include "The Man I Love", "Fascinating Rhythm", "Someone to Watch Over Me", "I Got Rhythm" and "They Can't Take That Away from Me". Their partnership continued until George's sudden death from a brain tumor in 1937. Following his brother's death, Ira waited nearly three years before writing again.
After this temporary retirement, Ira teamed up with accomplished composers such as Jerome Kern ( Cover Girl ); Kurt Weill ( Where Do We Go from Here? ; Lady in the Dark ); and Harold Arlen ( Life Begins at 8:40 ; A Star Is Born ).Over the next 14 years, Gershwin continued to write the lyrics for many film scores and a few Broadway shows. But the failure of Park Avenue in 1946 (a "smart" show about divorce, co-written with composer Arthur Schwartz) was his farewell to Broadway. As he wrote at the time, "Am reading a couple of stories for possible musicalization (if there is such a word) but I hope I don't like them as I think I deserve a long rest."
In 1947, he took 11 songs George had written but never used, provided them with new lyrics, and incorporated them into the Betty Grable film The Shocking Miss Pilgrim . He later wrote comic lyrics for Billy Wilder's 1964 movie Kiss Me, Stupid , although most critics believe his final major work was for the 1954 Judy Garland film A Star Is Born .
American singer, pianist and musical historian Michael Feinstein worked for Gershwin in the lyricist's latter years, helping him with his archive. Several lost musical treasures were unearthed during this period, and Feinstein performed some of the material. Feinstein's book The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs about working for Ira, and George and Ira's music, was published in 2012.
According to a 1999 story in Vanity Fair, Ira Gershwin's love for loud music was as great as his wife's loathing of it. When Debby Boone—daughter-in-law of his neighbor Rosemary Clooney—returned from Japan with one of the first Sony Walkmans (utilizing cassette tape), Clooney gave it to Michael Feinstein to give to Ira, "so he could crank it in his ears, you know. And he said, 'This is absolutely wonderful!' And he called his broker and bought Sony stock!"
Gershwin married Leonore (née Strunsky) in 1926.He died of heart disease in Beverly Hills, California, on 17 August 1983 at the age of 86. He is interred at Westchester Hills Cemetery, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. Leonore died in 1991.
Three of Ira Gershwin's songs ("They Can't Take That Away From Me" (1937), "Long Ago (And Far Away)" (1944) and "The Man That Got Away" (1954)) were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, though none won.
Along with George S Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, he was a recipient of the 1932 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Of Thee I Sing .
In 1988 UCLA established The George and Ira Gershwin Lifetime Musical Achievement Award in recognition of the brothers' contribution to music, and for their gift to UCLA of the fight song "Strike Up the Band for UCLA". Recipients include Angela Lansbury (1988), Ray Charles (1991), Mel Tormé (1994), Bernadette Peters (1995), Frank Sinatra (2000), Stevie Wonder (2002), k.d. lang (2003), James Taylor (2004), Babyface (2005), Burt Bacharach (2006), Quincy Jones (2007), Lionel Richie (2008) and Julie Andrews (2009).
Ira Gershwin was a joyous listener to the sounds of the modern world. "He had a sharp eye and ear for the minutiae of living." He noted in a diary: "Heard in a day: An elevator's purr, telephone's ring, telephone's buzz, a baby's moans, a shout of delight, a screech from a 'flat wheel', hoarse honks, a hoarse voice, a tinkle, a match scratch on sandpaper, a deep resounding boom of dynamiting in the impending subway, iron hooks on the gutter."
In 1987, Ira's widow, Leonore, established the Ira Gershwin Literacy Center at University Settlement, a century-old institution at 185 Eldridge Street on the Lower East Side, New York City. The center is designed to give English-language programs to primarily Hispanic and Chinese Americans. Ira and his younger brother George spent many after-school hours at the Settlement.
The George and Ira Gershwin Collection and the Ira Gershwin Files from the Law Office of Leonard Saxe are both at the Library of Congress Music Division.The Edward Jablonski and Lawrence D. Stewart Gershwin Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin holds a number of Ira's manuscripts and other material.
In 2007, the United States Library of Congress named its Prize for Popular Song after him and his brother George. Recognizing the profound and positive effect of American popular music on the world's culture, the prize will be given annually to a composer or performer whose lifetime contributions exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins.
George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist whose compositions spanned popular, jazz and classical genres. Among his 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 standards "Embraceable You" (1928) and "I Got Rhythm" (1930), and the opera Porgy and Bess (1935), which included the hit "Summertime".
George Gard "Buddy" DeSylva was an American songwriter, film producer and record executive. He wrote or co-wrote many popular songs and, along with Johnny Mercer and Glenn Wallichs, he co-founded Capitol Records.
Edgar Yipsel Harburg was an American popular song lyricist and librettist who worked with many well-known composers. He wrote the lyrics to the standards "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?", "April in Paris", and "It's Only a Paper Moon", as well as all of the songs for the film The Wizard of Oz, including "Over the Rainbow". He was known for the social commentary of his lyrics, as well as his leftist leanings. He championed racial and gender equality and union politics. He also was an ardent critic of religion.
George Gershwin (1898–1937), American composer, author of famous works such as Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris
Harold Arlen was an American composer of popular music, who composed over 500 songs, a number of which have become known worldwide. In addition to composing the songs for the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, including "Over the Rainbow", Arlen is a highly regarded contributor to the Great American Songbook. "Over the Rainbow" was voted the 20th century's No. 1 song by the RIAA and the NEA.
Ann Ronell was an American composer and lyricist. She was best known for the standards "Willow Weep for Me" (1932) and "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" (1933).
Vernon Duke was a Russian-born American composer/songwriter who also wrote under his birth name, Vladimir Dukelsky. He is best known for "Taking a Chance on Love," with lyrics by Ted Fetter and John Latouche (1940), "I Can't Get Started," with lyrics by Ira Gershwin (1936), "April in Paris," with lyrics by E. Y. ("Yip") Harburg (1932), and "What Is There To Say," for the Ziegfeld Follies of 1934, also with Harburg. He wrote the words and music for "Autumn in New York" (1934) for the revue Thumbs Up! In his book, American Popular Song, The Great Innovators 1900-1950, composer Alec Wilder praises this song, writing, “The verse may be the most ambitious I’ve ever seen." Duke also collaborated with lyricists Johnny Mercer, Ogden Nash, and Sammy Cahn.
"I Got Rhythm" is a piece composed by George Gershwin with lyrics by Ira Gershwin and published in 1930, which became a jazz standard. Its chord progression, known as the "rhythm changes", is the foundation for many other popular jazz tunes such as Charlie Parker's and Dizzy Gillespie's bebop standard "Anthropology ".
Michael Jay Feinstein is an American singer, pianist, and music revivalist. He is an archivist and interpreter for the repertoire known as the Great American Songbook. In 1988 he won a Drama Desk Special Award for celebrating American musical theatre songs. Feinstein is also a multi-platinum-selling, five-time Grammy-nominated recording artist. He currently serves as Artistic Director for The Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, Indiana.
A list song, also called a laundry list song or a catalog song, is a song based wholly or in part on a list. Unlike topical songs with a narrative and a cast of characters, list songs typically develop by working through a series of information, often humorous or comically, articulating their images additively, and sometimes use items of escalating absurdity.
"The Man I Love" is a popular standard in AABA form with music by George Gershwin and lyrics by his brother Ira. Part of the 1924 score for the Gershwin musical comedy Lady, Be Good, the song was deleted from that show and put into the Gershwins' 1927 government satire Strike Up the Band, which closed out-of-town. It was considered for, then rejected from, the 1928 Ziegfeld hit Rosalie.
"Someone to Watch Over Me" is a 1926 song composed by George Gershwin with lyrics by Ira Gershwin, assisted by Howard Dietz who penned the title. It was written for the musical Oh, Kay! (1926), with the part originally sung on Broadway by English actress Gertrude Lawrence while holding a rag doll in a sentimental solo scene. The musical ran for more than 200 performances in New York and then saw equivalent acclaim in London in 1927, all with the song as its centerpiece. Lawrence released the song as a medium-tempo single which rose to #2 on the charts in 1927.
"Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" is a song written by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin for the 1937 film Shall We Dance, where it was introduced by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as part of a celebrated dance duet on roller skates. The sheet music has the tempo marking of "Brightly". The song was ranked No. 34 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs.
The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song is an award given to a composer or performer for their lifetime contributions to popular music. Created in 2007 by the United States Library of Congress, the prize is named after brothers George and Ira Gershwin, whose contributions to popular music included songs such as I Got Rhythm, Embraceable You, and Someone to Watch Over Me, the orchestral pieces Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris, and the opera Porgy and Bess.
"Sam and Delilah" is a song composed by George Gershwin, with lyrics by Ira Gershwin. It was introduced by Ethel Merman in the 1930 musical Girl Crazy. The song is an interpretation of the biblical story of Samson and Delilah in the Book of Judges of the Hebrew Bible.
"The Saga of Jenny" is a popular song written for the 1941 Broadway musical Lady in the Dark, with music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Ira Gershwin, considered now as a blues standard.
"My Ship" is a popular song written for the 1941 Broadway musical Lady in the Dark, with music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Ira Gershwin.
"I Got Plenty o' Nuttin' " is a song composed in 1934 by George Gershwin for the 1935 "folk-opera" Porgy and Bess (1934). The lyrics are by DuBose Heyward, the author of the novel Porgy on which the opera was based, and Ira Gershwin. It is one of the most famous songs from the opera and it has been recorded by hundreds of singers and music groups.
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