Posted by Mindy

Happy Birthday

George Gershwin!

One of America’s most prolific and creative composers!

Celebrate with birthday treats of his day, a couple of fun stories about him, and listen/watch samples of his work.


Birthday party menu:  

When George was turning 1o in 1908, he probably enjoyed

brownies made with Hershey’s chocolate syrup

A Hershey’s chocolate bar

banana split

or maybe a Royal Crown cola or Coca-Cola!


George Gershwin’s World

Born in Brooklyn, New York, 1898.

Died in Hollywood, California, 1937.


George Gershwin as a Boy:

Growing up in New York, as the child of immigrants, he had the opportunity to mingle in the melting pot of cultures and languages which characterized the city. When George was growing up in New York City, he thought that music was “only for girls.” His world was made up of playing baseball, stickball, and being the best rollerskater in his neighborhood. That is, until one day, at age 10, when he heard a sound which changed his life forever: the sound of a fellow student playing the piano for some younger children.

His parents had bought a piano for his older brother Ira, but to his parents’ surprise and Ira’s relief, it was George who played it. After some begging, his parents made the sacrifice to pay for lessons for him. George went on to be called, “Mr. Music,” while his brother, Ira, gained the nickname, “Mr. Words.”  Together, the brothers composed, “I’ve Got Rhythm!”  Here’s the charming Gene Kelly singing and dancing in the film “An American in Paris,” as he teaches a group of French children how to speak English.

Here is a photo of an 1897 Kimball piano which might be like what was in the Gershwin home when the brothers were growing up.





When George was a boy, folks listened to music on a Victrola 






Gershwin composed all types of music: pop songs, jazz piano, pieces for the orchestra, music for movies, even an a jazz opera!

Here’s “Promenade” also known as Walking the Dog” from the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film “Shall We Dance.”  Gershwin was asked to compose a piece to use in the background while Astaire and Rogers walked their dogs across the small deck of a ocean cruiser.  Can you picture Rogers with her fluffy, little white dog and Astaire with the borrowed Great Dane?  Do they walk at the same pace?  Can you imagine them walking faster, slower?  If you were to compose a piece which told a story about someone walking a dog and trying to get someone’s attention while doing it, how would you do it?

Gershwin’s friend, Oscar Levant, here performs one of Gershwin’s pieces for piano and orchestra. Here we see Levant in the film “An American in Paris” performing Concerto in F music in his dream!  Who else do you see performing with him?  How many instruments can you identify?  What does the music make you feel like doing?  Sleeping?  Jumping?  Listen to it again, this time pretend to be the conductor!

Check my Facebook page, Tea With Music, this week during Gershwin’s birthday for more musical selections.