George Gershwin: A New Biography

George Gershwin: A New Biography

George Gershwin: A New Biography

George Gershwin: A New Biography


Hyland reveals both the man and his creations, revealing how Gershwin became the first composer to apply popular music to classical forms, how his work reflected the turmoil of America in the Jazz Age, and how, despite his fame, he never achieved the happiness and contentment a genius of his stature deserved. This is a fascinating new biography that no Gershwin fan--and no music fan--should be without.


On New Year's Day 1898, amid snow and rain, Greater New York City was born: Brooklyn as well as Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx were consolidated with Manhattan into one metropolitan area. The new city encompassed over three hundred acres and was second only to London in population. It was already the financial hub of the nation; the largest, busiest port; and the center of popular culture. This was George Gershwin's town. He was born in Brooklyn in September 1898 and would live all but the last year of his life in Greater New York, spending most of his youth in the crowded Lower East Side, where the massive influx of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and Russia settled.

The European immigration created a new city and a new nation. The first wave came from Ireland and Germany; then came Italians and, finally, the most powerful surge—Jews, mainly from Poland, Russia, and Galicia. The new Jewish immigrants were not all peasants, as so appealingly romanticized by the show Fiddler on the Roof. Many were tradesmen, artisans, and workers from the clothing and textiles industries of Russia. George Gershwin's father was one of them.

In New York and other northern cities, there was also an internal migration. Rural America was moving to the urban areas, and black Americans from the deep South were moving to the northern cities. Harlem would become the informal capital for African Americans, but before the Great War it had been an area for middle- and upper-class Jews, including the Gershwins, for a brief time. In the early part of the century young George Gershwin would roam around 125th Street. Within a decade this became home to black jazz musicians, many of them Gershwin's friends. “Uptown” was where he could hear Bessie Smith or Louis Armstrong at Connie's Inn, or Duke Ellington at the Cotton Club.

In short, the great melting pot was emerging. It was represented in a stage

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