Gershwin, George

BORN 26 Sep 1898, New York City, New York: Brooklyn - DIED 11 Jul 1937, Hollywood, California: Cedars of Lebanon Hospital
BIRTH NAME Gershowitz, Jacob
CAUSE OF DEATH brain tumour
GRAVE LOCATION Hastings-on-Hudson, New York: Westchester Hills Cemetery, 400 Saw Mill River Road (George Gershwin Mausoleum near the office)

Son of Russian Jews. He played the piano that his parents had bought for his older brother Ira. Charles Hambitzer, pianist of the Beethoven Symphony Orchestra, was his teacher and mentor. When he was fifteen he left school and he started writing songs. His "Rialto Ripples" was a success in 1917 and "Swanee" was a hit in 1919.

Together with Buddy DeSylva he wrote an experimental jazz opera in one act, "Blue Monday". This work has been regarded as a forerunner to his later work "Porgy and Bess" (1935). In 1924 he wrote a classical work, "Rhapsody in Blue".

He went to Paris to study composition with Nadia Boulanger, but she was afraid that classical study would ruin his jazzy style and refused to teach him. His "An American in Paris" was written in Paris and first performed at Carnegie Hall on 13 Dec 1928.

In 1935 he wrote his famous folk opera "Porgy and Bess", based on the novel "Porgy" by Dubose Heyward. In 1936 he was asked to write songs for "Shall We Dance", a movie with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. In 1937 he started having headaches and it turned out that he had a malicious brain tumour. He worked in Hollywood on "The Goldwyn Follies" when he broke down and he died on 11 Jul 1937 after surgery.

During his life he had an affair with composer Kay Swift that lasted for ten years. He wrote "Oh Kay" for her.

Related persons
• is brother/sister of Gershwin, Ira


The mausoleum of George Gershwin at Westchester Hills Cemetery, Hastings-on-Hudson.
Picture by Androom (13 Apr 2010)


Winkler Prins Encyclopedie (editie 1980)
George Gershwin - Wikipedia

Gershwin, Ira

Published: 24 Oct 2010
Last update: 25 Feb 2022