By Michael Baadke
The wonderful music that George Gershwin created during his brief lifetime passed into the great American songbook long ago, and will be treasured there as long as people are entertained by music.
Gershwin was born Jacob Gershwine on Sept. 26, 1898, in Brooklyn, N.Y., and died at age 38 on July 11, 1937, after undergoing surgery for a brain tumor.
His brother Ira was almost two years older, and the family would include younger brother Arthur and sister Frances.
George studied piano as a youngster and began performing professionally at age 15 after dropping out of school.
A gifted composer, his most frequent collaborator was his brother Ira, and together they wrote popular standards such as I Got Rhythm, Embraceable You, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off, Nice Work if You Can Get It and They Can’t Take That Away from Me.
Many of their works were composed for Broadway musicals, including Lady Be Good in 1924 and Funny Face in 1927.
George also composed Rhapsody in Blue, a work for piano and jazz band (and adapted for orchestra), plus the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess, written with Ira Gershwin and DuBose Hayward, and other orchestral works and film scores
Porgy and Bess was commemorated on a 29¢ booklet stamp issued in a Broadway Musicals set on July 14, 1993.
George Gershwin was honored on an 8¢ stamp issued Feb. 28, 1973 (Scott 1484). Ira Gershwin died in 1983, and the brothers were commemorated together on a single 33¢ stamp issued Sept. 21, 1999, in the Broadway Songwriters set as part of the Legends of American Music series (3345).