George Gershwin: Jazz Age Genius

Jazz Ager George Gershwin died of brain cancer at 38.ArtTracker| Today’s WSJ wonders if George Gershwin, not F. Scott Fitzgerald, may have been the reigning figure of America’s Jazz Age.

More thorough biographies than Walter Rimler’s slender ­volume “George Gershwin” exist—Edward Jablonski’s “Gershwin” at 436 pages, Howard Pollack’s “George Gershwin: His Life and Work” weighing in at 882 pages—but for those of us ­interested less in the technical details of Gershwin’s music and its performance than in the comet called George ­Gershwin that blazed briefly across American skies, Mr. Rimler is the astronomer of choice.

Gershwin, dead of brain cancer at 38, hit the brick wall of death, living life at 100mph.

What’s fascinating about Gershwin’s life is how ‘undestined’ he was for grandeur. Outside of being a son of Russian Jews, his family life didn’t spawn cultural greatness. His mother had no special interest in culture or talent for music; his father ran bakeries, Turkish baths, a cigar store and a pool parlor, and was briefly a bookie.

Gershwin’s musical greatness impacted me greatly. I wrote last year about “Rapsody in Blue”:

“Even as a little girl, I associated Gershwin’s melody with moving to New York, which I knew was in my future at seven years old.

If it’s possible for a song to symbolize your life, this is mine.” Anne