George Gershwin was born on 26 September 1898 in New York. An inspirational natural musician who departed too soon in July 1937.
Possibly but not necessarily, Jacob Gershwine, as was his given name, was not as well known by his first famous song as was its celebrated singer, Al Jolson, and the song that he heard George sing at a social – ‘Swanee’.
For most of us the introduction to George Gershwin as he was then called, was Rhapsody in Blue, a composition that attracts the more mature post adolescent ear, excited by jazz blended with a great tune.
In Paddington, Sydney in the 70’s, the terraces were in full swing of renovation and the maybe 20 old pubs were revitalised by jazz, mainly New Orleans. Yet Gershwin was a sought after pleasure over a beer or 3 any evening or weekend afternoon.
We befriended an old couple (70 or more in the shade), Marie (who played the piano) and Banjo George who had emigrated from the jazz pubs of London and each Tuesday played at one of our ‘locals’. For both Idelies and myself, the great reward was to hear a rendition by George of Rhapsody in Blue on the Banjo. Words cannot do the performance justice. I trust that he is still strumming it somewhere in heaven.
Possibly Gershwin was not aware of the magic of his music as he sought teachers for many years. Maybe the rejection by Ravel – ‘Why be a second rate Ravel when you are already a first rate Gershwin?’- gave him belief in his own art.
Porgy and Bess has become a permanent member of the repertoire of many opera companies and I recall it capturing my esteem, despite my predilection for Italian opera, when the Australian Opera introduced it to us. Separately, during my earlier period of failing to become a saxophonist, I had the experience of struggling with the rhythm of ‘Summertime’ to the despair of our jazz teacher.
The Porgy and Bess song ‘I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’ definitely marked my skill. So I now settle to enjoyment of George Gershwin as an accompaniment to our search for artists and artisans who may, like Gershwin, bring something extraordinary to inspire their chosen artistic discipline.