The Brothers Gershwin – George (left), Ira (right)
Rhapsody in Pastel and Royal Blue:
The Complementary Combo of George & Ira Gershwin
Torch Song (noun) – a sentimental or romantic popular song
The winning combination of Libran composer George Gershwin with his Sagittarian lyricist of a brother, Ira, may not have been in any way romantic, but their combined efforts created some of the greatest Romance songs one could ever hope to hear.
George Gershwin was no exception to this Libran rule.
Although never married over the course of his extremely short lived life, the Libran composer considered to be one of America’s finest with such classic works as “An American in Paris”, the opera “Porgy and Bess” and his orchestral masterpiece “Rhapsody in Blue” functioned best when he was partnered with another.
This Libran need to be partnered extended into the realm of musical composition as well.
Siding with the intelligentsia and European musical elite of his time, even George Gershwin, himself seemingly had his share of difficulty embracing his own individual merit and artistic worth as both a “serious” musician and “classical” composer. Your Author firmly believes that the Libra’s need to be securely partnered was what initially inhibited Gershwin from developing his unique voice and incomparable style distinctly as an American composer.
This theory is evident when Gershwin lived for a short time in Paris and sought to study beneath the auspicious tutelage of the great Modern Classical composer, Maurice Ravel,
…only to be flatly rejected by him.
The French composer of renown may have declined the American’s request for formal study, however his rejection letter also evaluated Gershwin’s unique composing style by saying:
“Why be a 2nd rate Ravel when you are a 1st rate Gershwin?”
Although described as “the only popular composer of this (the 20th) century whose works have made a lasting dent in the granitic façade of the classical canon” (The Atlantic Monthly), George Gershwin’s illustrious career in music began in 1913 as a 15 year old high school drop out working as a “song plugger” in the music publishing heart of lower Manhattan, formerly known as “Tin Pan Alley“.
The 15 year old song plugger made $15 a week and two years later earned a whopping 50 cents for his first composition, a Libran themed Vaudeville ditty entitled “When You Want ‘Em, You Can’t Get ‘Em, When You’ve Got ‘Em, You Don’t Want ‘Em”.
A plaque commemorating NYC’s Tin Pan Alley located on W. 28th Street in Manhattan. (By Ben Sutherland; cropped by Beyond My Ken (talk) 01:13, 3 June 2011 (UTC) – originally posted to Flickr as Tin Pan Alley, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15383742)
In the early 20th century, a song plugger was a pianist who could crank out any random bit of sheet music given to him on the store floor of one of the many music publishing shops located on Manhattan’s W. 28th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue. otherwise known as Tin Pan Alley. These masters of on the spot sight reading did this with the intent of assisting potential buyers with their purchases of both sheet music and pianos of the player and non-player varieties.
Needless to say, the average song plugger didn’t have a spare minute for any kind of classical training or instruction in either music theory or harmonic development but,
…..certain song pluggers were able to both write AND promote their own Broadway show tunes, especially ones whose lyrics were cleverly penned and collaboratively partnered with one’s big brother.
Enter George’s brother, Ira Gershwin, lyricist and Sagittarian.
Nearly all of Gershwin’s song compositions written for Vaudeville, Broadway and the popular stage were collaborative efforts of the highest caliber, since they consisted of music that was composed by George with lyrics written by his elder brother, Ira.
Ira’s naturally buoyant and inherently optimistic Sagittarian personality gave him the ability to create, as Wikipedia notes, “witty lyrics and inventive wordplay which received nearly as much acclaim as George’s compositions.”
In astrology, the elements of Air and Fire are considered complementary to each other. The complementary ease of creative output that occurred whenever the Air sign composer partnered up with his Fire signed lyricist of a brother resulted in a song book that is distinctly American and a class unto itself.
The Gershwin Brothers’ Torch Songs & Show Tunes all have a timeless quality, as well as capture the essence of the Modern Age of New York City from the 1920’s and 30’s. Listed below are a mere handful from the numerous musical gems which resulted from the collaborative efforts of the Air and Fire Signed Artistic Duo of The Brothers Gershwin:
“I Got Rhythm,” “Embraceable You,” “The Man I Love,””Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Fascinating Rhythm,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”, “Strike Up The Band”, “Nice Work If You Can Get It”, “’S’ Wonderful” & “Our Love Is Here To Stay”
….just to name a few.
To quote Stanford University, “Many of Ira’s lyrics have become so much a part of how we express what we think and feel about love and life that we almost forget who wrote them. His phrases have become so familiar, they’re simply absorbed into our language.”
Ira was a Fire Sign who appeared to always be funny whenever collaborating with his musical genius of a baby brother. Even when the Sag was barraged with a particularly annoying recurring question that came following George’s untimely death of a brain tumor at the age of 38 of: “Which came first, the music or the words?” Ira Gershwin being the witty Fire Sign would always answer, “The contract!“
Besides how could the Fire Sign lyricist not succeed given the particular niche of song he and his brother mastered contains the Sagittarian’s own element of Fire in its name? (TORCH song).
The sibling partnership that musically was like no other whose astrological colors are various shades of Blue, Libra’s being Pastel and Sagittarius’ being Royal was a driving force of musical inspiration when the entire country became consumed in the economic blues brought about by one of the toughest decades of financial ruin in American History otherwise known as the “Great Depression“. With George’s toe tapping music and Ira’s upbeat lyrics music lovers throughout the 1930’s were bestowed temporary respite from their money troubles and infused with inspiration to continue forging on with music that was both uplifting and unabashedly American.
Brad’s favorite torch song by George and Ira sung by Brad’s father’s favorite torch song singer, the great Sarah Vaughan.
“Rhapsody in Blue” composed at the age of 26 by George Gershwin in 1924, performed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Brad Kronen’s book “Love in the Stars” published by Llewellyn Worldwide, Inc. is available for purchase at your local book seller or online at amazon.com at the link listed below.