New York City native and gifted pianist George Gershwin blossomed as an accompanist before his talent as a songwriter opened the way to Broadway, where he fashioned his own brand of American music. He composed a long run of musical comedies, many with his brother Ira as lyricist, but his aspirations reached beyond commercial success.
A lifetime learner, Gershwin was able to appeal to listeners on both sides of the purported popular-classical divide. In 1924—when he was just twenty-five—he bridged that gap with his first instrumental composition, Rhapsody in Blue, an instant classic premiered by Paul Whiteman’s jazz orchestra, as the anchor of a concert entitled “An Experiment in Modern Music.”
From that time forward his work as a composer, pianist, and citizen of the Jazz Age made him in some circles a leader on America’s musical scene. The late1920s found him extending the range of the shows he scored to include the United Kingdom, and he published several articles to reveal his thinking about a range of musical matters. Moreover, having polished his skills as an orchestrator, he pushed boundaries again in 1935 with the groundbreaking folk opera, Porgy and Bess—his magnum opus.
Gershwin’s talent and warmth made him a presence in New York’s musical and social circles (and linked him romantically with pianist-composer Kay Swift). In 1936 he and Ira moved west to write songs for Hollywood. Their work was cut short, however, when George developed a brain tumor and died at thirty-eight, a beloved American artist.
Drawing extensively from letters and contemporaneous accounts, acclaimed music historian Richard Crawford traces the arc of Gershwin’s remarkable life, seamlessly blending colorful anecdotes with a discussion of Gershwin’s unforgettable oeuvre. His days on earth were limited to the summertime of life. But the spirit and inventive vitality of the music he left behind lives on.
He and his siblings received little love from their mother and no direction from their father. Older brother and lyricist Ira managed to create a home when he married Leonore Strunsky, a hard-edged woman who lived for wealth and status. The closest George came to domesticity was through his longtime relationship with Kay Swift. She was his lover, musical confidante, and fellow composer. But she remained married to another man while he went endlessly from woman to woman. Only in the final hours of his life, when they were separated by a continent, did he realize how much he needed her. Fatally ill, unprotected by (and perhaps estranged from) Ira, he was exiled by Leonore from the house she and the brothers shared, and he died horribly and alone at the age of thirty-eight.
Nor was Gershwin able to find a satisfying musical harbor. For years his songwriting genius could be expressed only in the ephemeral world of show business, as his brilliance as a composer of large-scale works went unrecognized by highbrow music critics. When he resolved this quandary with his opera Porgy and Bess, the critics were unable to understand or validate it. Decades would pass before this, his most ambitious composition, was universally regarded as one of music’s lasting treasures and before his stature as a great composer became secure.
In George Gershwin: An Intimate Portrait, Walter Rimler makes use of fresh sources, including newly discovered letters by Kay Swift as well as correspondence between and interviews with intimates of Ira and Leonore Gershwin. It is written with spirited prose and contains more than two dozen photographs.
Celebrate thirty years of the world's most notorious rock band with the deluxe collectors' edition of The Dirt—the outrageous, legendary, no-holds-barred autobiography of Mötley Crüe. Fans have gotten glimpses into the band's crazy world of backstage scandals, celebrity love affairs, rollercoaster drug addictions, and immortal music in Mötley Crüe books like Tommyland and The Heroin Diaries, but now the full spectrum of sin and success by Tommy Lee, Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil, and Mick Mars is an open book in The Dirt. Even fans already familiar with earlier editions of the bestselling exposé will treasure this gorgeous deluxe edition. Joe Levy at Rolling Stone calls The Dirt "without a doubt . . . the most detailed account of the awesome pleasures and perils of rock & roll stardom I have ever read. It is completely compelling and utterly revolting."