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The Dream Team

As part of BBC Music Day's theme of collaboration, Donald Macleod focuses on how George Gershwin worked with his regular lyricist and brother Ira.

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of George Gershwin. Today, as part of BBC Music Day's theme of collaboration, a look at how George worked with his regular lyricist and brother Ira.

A life cut short, George Gershwin died in 1937 of a brain tumour at the age of just 38. Yet this isn't a story of what might have been. Gershwin's musical legacy stands as one of admirable achievement. He wrote a string of twelve Broadway musicals, orchestral music and an opera. He penned some of the most recorded tunes in the popular song catalogue of all time. We'll hear many of them across the week, in classic versions made by some of the twentieth century's legendary voices, including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire and Judy Garland. Outside the sphere of popular music, Gershwin's orchestral music won plenty of public support although his critical reception was mixed. Nonetheless among his supporters were significant figures in the classical world such as the New York Philharmonic's Walter Damrosch.
Despite the breadth of his appeal, his professional standing and his wealth, Gershwin remained a man who never felt truly confident in his own musical knowledge, perhaps because his musical education had been limited by circumstance. He was born in 1898 in New York, the second son of Jewish immigrant parents, Morris and Rose Gershowitz. As a child George excelled on roller-skates rather than school-work. Leaving altogether at the age of 14 he was pounding away on a piano in Tin Pan Alley for 10 hours a day. Success came early though when he persuaded Al Jolson to record his song "Swanee". The two million records it sold made George a comfortable pile, and from there on, as they say, "the rest is history".

Together George and Ira Gershwin wrote a string of twelve Broadway musicals, beginning with Lady Be Good in 1924 and culminating in 1933 with Let 'Em Eat Cake. They wrote for Hollywood films and had a string of hits that have all gone on to stand on their own. They worked together right up to the end of George Gershwin's life.

A Foggy Day
Frank Sinatra

Let's Call The Whole Thing Off
Harry Connick, vocal and piano
Benjamin Jonah Wolfe, bass
Jeff "Tain" Watts, drums

I Was Doing Alright
Louis Armstrong

The Lorelei ... Isn't It A Pity (Pardon My English)
William Katt, Golo
John Collum, commissioner Bauer
Arnetia Walker, Gita
Michelle Nicastro, Ilse Bauer
Chorus and Orchestra conducted by Eric Stern

Porgy and Bess (Excerpt from Act 2)
Damon Evans, tenor, Sportin Life
Gregg Baker, baritone, Crown
Cynthia Hamon, soprano, Bess
The Glyndebourne Chorus
The London Philharmonic
Simon Rattle, conductor

Aren't You Kind of Glad We Did
Ella Fitzgerald
Nelson Riddle, conductor and arranger.

1 hour

Last on

Fri 3 Jun 2016 18:30

Music Played

  • Frank Sinatra & Willie Nelson

    A Foggy Day

    • 6.
  • George Gershwin

    Let's call the whole thing off

    Composer: Ira Gershwin. Performer: Harry Connick, Jr.. Performer: Benjamin Wolfe. Performer: Jeffrey “Tain” Watts.
    • When Harry Med Sally.
    • CBS.
    • 9.
  • George Gershwin

    I was doing alright

    Performer: Louis Armstrong.
    • Verve:5396792.
    • 5.
  • George Gershwin

    George Gershwin Interview

    • 15.
  • George Gershwin

    Pardon my English - Act 1

    Singer: John Cullum. Singer: William Katt. Orchestra: St Luke's Orchestra. Conductor: Eric Stern.
    • ELEKTRA/NONESUCH : 75579338-2.
    • 2.
  • George Gershwin

    Porgy and Bess - Act 2

    Singer: Cynthia Haymon. Singer: Damon Evans. Singer: Cynthia Clarey. Singer: Marietta Simpson. Singer: Gregg Baker. Choir: Glyndebourne Chorus. Orchestra: London Philharmonic Orchestra. Orchestra: London Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Sir Simon Rattle. Conductor: Sir Simon Rattle. Singer: Willard White. Singer: Willard White.
    • EMI : 556220-2.
    • EMI.
    • 10.
  • Ella Fitzgerald

    Aren’t you kind of glad we did

    • VERVE : 8250242.
    • Verve.
    • 14.


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