Saturday, July 29, 2006

People I Admire: GEORGE GERSHWIN

Hailed as one of America’s important composers, George Gershwin (1898-1937) along with his brother, Ira (1896-1983), collaborated to create timeless music for some of Broadway’s remarkable musicals – Lady Be Good, Strike Up The Band, Showgirl, and Funny Face. There was also their folk opera Porgy and Bess which produced the hit song, Summertime, as well as George’s orchestral works, Rhapsody in Blue and An American In Paris.

His music had become classic standards and no respectable jazz artist would be without a Gershwin in his repertoire. Balladeers from Frank Sinatra to Tony Bennet, as well as song stylists from George Michael to Rod Stewart had delved into the Gershwin catalog. And filmmakers like Woody Allen had used Gershwin's orchestral work as soundtrack to his film Manhattan.

His songs — such as ‘S Wonderful, Our Love Is Here To Stay, Someone To Watch Over Me, Nice Work If You Can Get It, and But Not For Me — will remain forever etched in most music lovers’ hearts.

According to Jane Erb’s biography of this great American composer, “He never experienced a dry spell or the composer's equivalent of writer's block, and he was equally adept at composing music to which words were added or fitting music to book and lyrics already written, as he did in Porgy and Bess.” And always a self-promoter, “He loved nothing more than parties where he could (and did) monopolize the evening at the piano, playing and singing his own works for the friends who adored him.’

George Gershwin (named Jacob Gershovitz at his birth on September 26, 1898) was the second of four children born to Morris and Rose Gershovitz, Russians who had immigrated to New York and married in America. He died on July 11, 1937 of brain tumor.


Photo credit: Bellevue Chamber Chorus

Note:

I thought posting an entry about George Gershwin would be a fitting tribute to this legendary American composer and to commemorate my father's death anniversary today.
My father adored Gershwin's music immensely -- both in standard and jazz forms. Suffice it to say, it was Gershwin's music that marked my introduction to jazz while growing up. When I started singing as a youngster, my father played me Frank Sintra’s recording of Someone To Watch Over Me and asked me to learn it. Since his death, every time I find myself alone and in desperate situations, I would sing this song to myself to alleviate my anxiety.

My most favorite version of this song is the one recorded by Heb Alpert as sung by him and embellished with his haunting trumpet solo.



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posted by Señor Enrique at 9:09 AM


11 Comments:

Anonymous Major Tom said...

I am certain would be in good stead in the afterlife, what with music like this.

I think George Gershwin is pure genius and the sone "Someone To Watch Over Me" is I think the greatest love song ever made. When Sting made a cover of it, it was the day that I was introduced into American Jazz because I just can't get enough of it. By then, I have bought some nifty Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald records and boy, I held to them like treasures until now. Tower Records in Glorietta has a very good Jazz section that when I was there, it was such a pleasure to hang around that place...

July 29, 2006 12:53 PM  

Anonymous Major Tom said...

Some error eric...My firts line above should read: "I am certain your father would be in good stead in the afterlife, what with music like these..."

July 29, 2006 12:56 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Many thanks, Majuor Tom, for such fine and soothing words :)

Yes ... Gershwin was a genius! And boy, have you got a good start with your jazz collection with Billie Holiday and Miss Ella.

Sting's version of "Someone To Watch Over Me" is, indeed, great. I happen to like him a lot as both a rock and jazz artist. Though not a Gershwin tune, Sting did an excellent job with "My One And Only Love" (written by Sonny Burke) with just a piano and upright bass for accompaniment. It was the theme song for "Leaving Las Vegas" starring Nicholas Cage and Elizabeth Sue.

Haven't been to Glorietta for quite some time now and not sure if they still have Tower Records over there since its parent company in the States had filed for bankruptcy protection. However, there is a new record store over at Greenbelt, One.

July 29, 2006 9:36 PM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

If you have not already done so, watch the old movie, Young At Heart, where Frank Sinatra stars with another popular singer, Doris Day. And he sings, Someone To Watch Over Me, in it. And I believe they both sang the title song. It was a getting together of Gerswhin and Cole Porter.

Most singers of note have recorded that Gerswhin tune.

July 29, 2006 11:46 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Yes, Amadeo, you're right ... seems like most notable recording artists had done a cover of that song. And, of course, Cole Porter along with Irving Berlin were the other popular American composers, but somehow, I've come to favor Gershwin the most -- it may be because living in NYC also reinforced my appreciation for his music since most people in this town adored him.

I must have seen "Young at Heart, but at a very young age with my parents. I can remember my eldest sister playing her Doris Day 45s (Que Sera Sera, Secret Love, and etc.). Nonetheless, now that you mentioned it, I will see it again as soon as I find a VHS or DVD copy of it.

July 30, 2006 6:16 AM  

Blogger Senorito<- Ako said...

Gershwin fan eh ? :)

Do you listen to thelonious monk ? I never could get his music.

July 30, 2006 5:41 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

T. Monk was supposedly a founder of bebop jazz, but I was drawn to his recordings when studying piano -- his was of incredible improvizational form. Another jazz artist I like in that same vein is Eric Dolphy (sax and flute).

Like you, Senorito Ako, I never would have understood it at all had I not any deeper interest in the instruments they played.

July 31, 2006 5:49 AM  

Blogger Rey said...

A fitting tribute for a father, indeed, Eric.

I'm not that aware of GEORGE GERSHWIN's music (I guess the first time you post about musicians that I cannot relate much to).
Marami pala siyang sinulat na ni-revive ng mga sikat na classic singers no?

July 31, 2006 10:44 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Many thanks, Rey.

I'm sure you have already heard some of Gershwin's music, but just didn't pay that much attention to it. Come to think of it, most elevator music like (Muzak) pipes in some Gershwin music on a regular rotation basis, but they're mostly in cheesy orchestra form, though.

However, if you really feel like checking out "Someone To Watch Over Me," may I suggest Wilie Nelson's version from his album "Stardust."

This is an entire album of standard ballads (Gershwin's among them) but stylized with acoustic country music guitar licks. Slide guitar and harmonica were well-represented as well. Really sweet!

July 31, 2006 8:25 PM  

Anonymous Toe said...

I remember when I was a little girl, I saw Dorothy Hamill skate to the tune of "American in Paris." And then, was it in the LA Olympics when about a hundred grand pianos played the piano part of "Rhapsody in Blue"?

August 02, 2006 3:47 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

A hundred pianos performing "Rhapsody in Blue" in unison must have been pretty phenomenal, Toe! BTW, this is the same piece used by Woody Allen in Manhattan.

And I can imagine Dorothy Hamill skating away in "American in Paris." Awesome!

August 02, 2006 8:40 PM  

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