January 12, 2011

Jazz Love: Ira Gershwin

Terry Teachout had a truly delightful piece in friday's WSJ about Ira Gershwin, the president of the nice guys clubs, and one of the first great lyricists of the Jazz age:
George Gershwin's older brother and longtime collaborator was known on Broadway and in Hollywood for being an unusually agreeable person. In "No Minor Chords," his 1991 memoir, André Previn recalled that Gershwin was "so unfailingly kind-hearted and soft-spoken that his cronies dubbed him President of the Nice Guys Club." He was also one of the very best lyricists in the business, and in 1959 he published his own annotated volume of his lyrics called "Lyrics on Several Occasions."

The lengthy subtitle of "Lyrics on Several Occasions" is so characteristic of its author that it deserves to be quoted in its entirety, complete with ampersands and semicolons: "A Selection of Stage & Screen Lyrics Written for Sundry Occasions; and Now Arranged in Arbitrary Categories. To Which Have Been Added Many Informative Annotations & Disquisitions on Their Why & Wherefore, Their Whom-For, Their How; And Matters Associative."

For my part, the Gershwin brothers some of my very very favorite ("Summertime", "The Simple Life", "You've Got What Get's Me") and some of my least favorite pieces, too ("They all Laughed", "Embraceable You", and, though it is sacrilegious to say, "'S Wonderful").

Do read the whole article here. And while you're reading, bend an ear to some of my favorite Gershwin songs:

Bonus: hear Mr. Nice Guy himself talking about his brother, George:

ps. Thanks to reader and old friend Colleen for reminding me about "For You, For Me, Forevermore."

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