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I Dreamed of The Gershwin Brothers Especially George

For some reason I started thinking about the Gershwin brothers particularly George last night while sleeping.  I found myself returning in my dreams to a long ago place in my own life where I spent a summer performing almost exclusively Gershwin songs.  I had studied jazz at the University of California in Santa Cruz and a professor asked me to participate in a summer concert series honoring the Gershwin’s that he had arranged.  I was honored!

We played all over N. Central and Northern California.  The concert started off with the pieces Gershwin wrote for two grand pianos, and then the second half were his jazz standards and that’s where I came in.  I sang several songs as a duo with my boyfriend who was a great jazz guitarist, and later I sang with a jazz trio of piano, acoustic bass, and drums.  It was quite an event for me.  We played at some rather famous venues and were also broadcast live on the radio in San Francisco and Berkeley.  For about five months, between my preparation for the concerts and the shows themselves, I must have listened to the Nelson Riddle arranged, Ella Fitzgerald “Sings the Gershwin Songbook” albums at least a thousand times.  She was my bible.

The Gershwin brother’s Ira (born 1896) and his younger brother George (born 1898), were a formidable musical pair.  Together they wrote some of the most memorable and well-known Broadway classics and jazz standards ever written.  Some of the Broadway Musicals they wrote include “Lady Be Good,” “Strike Up the Band,” “Funny Face,” “Of Thee I Sing,” and “Let Em Eat Cake.”  George’s orchestral works included “An American in Paris,” “Rhapsody in Blue,” and “Variations on Fascinating Rhythm;” and his one opera “Porgy & Bess,” included some of my favorite music of all time.  I can hear  in my head as I write this piece Billie Holiday in the background singing “I Loves You Porgy,” an absolutely beautiful, sad, emotive, sultry arrangement!  And for me his most memorable film score was for the movie, “Shall We Dance.”  Everyone from Fred Astaire, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, to John Coltrane, Sam Cooke, Miles Davis, Julie Andrews to Janis Joplin, Nina Simone, Sting, even Amy Winehouse (see below) and countless others have played and sung the songs of these two brothers.

Ira the great lyricist of the two outlived his younger brother George who died of a brain tumor at the age of 38.  But the two of them together wrote some of the best songs ever written including such classics as “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “The Man I Love,” “Embraceable You,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” “I Can’t Get Started,” “Love is Here to Stay,” “They All Laughed,” “Summertime” and every song from “Porgy and Bess.”   Their imprint on American music and jazz is something that musicians will be studying and emulating for years to come; and their audiences will have the opportunity to hear and be moved by their lyrics and melodies for many generations.

Last night I dreamed of the Gershwin Brothers, especially George….

To hear Amy Winehouse sing Gershwin’s “Someone To Watch Over Me,” either click on the link below or cut and paste it into your browser.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54QBj0YyoI4&feature=related

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