George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. Among his best-known works are the orchestral compositions Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and An American in Paris (1928) as well as the opera Porgy and Bess (1935).
Gershwin was influenced by French composers of the early twentieth century. In turn Maurice Ravel was impressed with Gershwin’s abilities, commenting, “Personally I find jazz most interesting: the rhythms, the way the melodies are handled, the melodies themselves. I have heard of George Gershwin’s works and I find them intriguing.”
A 74-second newsreel film clip of Gershwin playing I Got Rhythm has survived, filmed at the opening of the Manhattan Theater (now The Ed Sullivan Theater) in August 1931.
In 1975, Columbia Records released an album featuring Gershwin’s piano rolls of Rhapsody In Blue, accompanied by the Columbia Jazz Band playing the original jazz band accompaniment, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. The B-side of the Columbia Masterworks release features Tilson Thomas leading the New York Philharmonic in An American In Paris.
The soundtrack to Woody Allen‘s 1979 film Manhattan is composed entirely of Gershwin’s compositions, including “Rhapsody in Blue”, “Love is Sweeping the Country“, and “But Not for Me”, performed by both the New York Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta and the Buffalo Philharmonic under Michael Tilson Thomas. The film begins with a monologue by Allen: “He adored New York City … To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin.”
Many singers and musicians have recorded Gershwin songs, including Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, Louis Armstrong, Dean Martin, Al Jolson, Bobby Darin, Percy Grainger, Art Tatum, Yehudi Menuhin, Bing Crosby, The Moody Blues, Janis Joplin, John Coltrane, Mel Tormé, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Sam Cooke, Diana Ross, Neil Sedaka, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Hiromi Uehara, Madonna, Judy Garland, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, Marni Nixon, Natalie Cole, Patti Austin, Nina Simone, Maureen McGovern, Adam Faith, John Fahey, The Residents, Kate Bush, Sublime, Sting, Amy Winehouse, Doris Day, Chet Atkins and Liquid Tension Experiment.
Baseline Studio Systems announced in January 2010 that Steven Spielberg may direct a biopic about the composer’s life; 32-year-old American actor Zachary Quinto was named for the leading role of George Gershwin.