George & Ira Gershwin

George & Ira Gershwin
Associated Press

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George & Ira Gershwin
Music: North side of the 7100 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Composer | Songwriters

George and Ira Gershwin were two brothers who made more than just music, they wove show-business witchcraft.

Their relatively brief collaboration — brief because George Gershwin lived only 38 years — produced scores of the most hummable tunes combined with the most repeatable lyrics ever to fall on the American ear.

A George Gershwin biographer has said of the brothers' musical partnership: "Each inspired the other; each drew strength from the other. George's musical subtlety inspired Ira to produce lyrics which, at their best, were incomparable for deftness of touch; and Ira's lyrics frequently inspired George to his best melodies."

Among those that came from the Gershwin brothers' collaboration were "The Man I love," "S Wonderful, "I Got Rhythm," "Embraceable You," "A Foggy Day (in London Town)" and, of course, the classics from "Porgy and Bess": "I Loves You, Porgy," "Summertime," "I Got Plenty o' Nothin'," "It Ain't Necessarily So" and "Bess, You Is My Woman."

George Gershwin is arguably best known for composing "Rhapsody in Blue," a musical combination of jazz and classical. But around George Gershwin's head beat a storm of criticism, praise and scorn. The piece, tempestuous and haunting, was the composer's self-confessed effort to reconcile Tin Pan Alley with Carnegie Hall. It was, he said, not revolutionary music — but evolutionary.

George's prodigious gifts, however, were lost early; he died in 1937 of a brain tumor.

But Ira's gifts survived, grew and converged with a stunning gallery of composers of musical comedy. He not only was prolific but his lyrics enhanced the enchantments of such melodists as Harold Arlen, Vernon Duke, Jerome Kern, Harry Warren, Vincent Youmans, Sigmund Romberg and Kurt Weill.

But even before George's death, Ira had a whirl with other collaborators, notably George Kaufman and Marc Connelly, to whom he contributed the lyrics for "Be Yourself" in 1924.

The brothers were born in New York. Ira was the eldest of four children and brother George was two years younger.

George began working in his teenage years as a song plugger for a New York publishing firm, and Ira did not enter the music industry until later, first taking on odd jobs such as a business manager for a traveling carnival.

When Ira took to lyric writing, he appropriated the names of his other brother and sister, not wanting to trade on the name of brother George, already on his way as a pianist and songwriter.

After he first published the song "Waiting for the Sun to Come Out," the Gershwin brothers were off and running as an immensely successful lyricist-composer team.

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    Academy Awards

    Year Category Work
    1937 Best Song "They Can't Take That Away From Me" from Shall We Dance Nomination*
    1944 Best Song "Long Ago and Far Away" from Cover Girl Nomination*
    1954 Best Song "The Man That Got Away" from A Star Is Born Nomination*
    * A joint nomination shared with other people.

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