Composer. He is best remembered for his compositions with his equally talented lyricist older brother, Ira Gershwin. They are responsible for such hit songs as "Someone to Watch over Me" (1926), "Love Walked In" (1937), "Love is Here to Stay" (1937), "Rhapsody in Blue" (1924), and for such musicals as "Of Thee I sing" (1931 - the first musical to ever win a Pulitzer Prize), and "Porgy and Bess" (1935). Born Jacob Gershowitz in Brooklyn, New York City, New York of Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, he was immediately attracted to music as he grew up, and could play popular and classical music on the piano by ear. In 1913, he quit school to devote his time to studying music and began composing pieces for the stage. In 1919, he had his first big hit, "Swanee," which was popularized by Al Jolson, and his first Broadway show, "La La, Lucille." In 1924, he teamed up with his older brother, Ira, and the pair became the dominant Broadway success team for the next decade, with such musical hits as "Lady, Be Good" (1924), "Oh, Kay!" (1926), "Funny Face" (1927), "Strike Up the Band" (1927), "Girl Crazy" (1930), and "Of Thee I Sing" (1931). Gershwin songs would find their way into Hollywood movies and in numerous remixes by popular singers continuously after his death. In 1926, George came across DuBose Heyward's novel "Porgy" and used it as the inspiration for his most famous work, the musical "Porgy and Bess" (1935), an instant success hit. In 1937, he fell in love with actress Paulette Goddard, who was then married to movie producer Charlie Chaplin. When she would not leave her husband, he was heartbroken, and when he fell ill shortly afterwards, it was considered stress due to the breakup. He died a month later, from a brain tumor, after five hours of emergency surgery to remove the tumor. In 1973, the United States Postal Service honored him with an 8-cent postage stamp in the American Art series. In 1985, Congress awarded a Congressional Gold Medal to the Gershwin brothers, to honor their contribution to the American Spirit. In 1998, the two men won a posthumous special Pulitzer Prize, which was awarded on the centennial of his birth.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson