George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn on September 26, 1898, and began his musical training when he was 13. At 16 he quit high school to work as a "song plugger" for a music publisher, and soon he was writing songs himself. "Swanee," as introduced by Al Jolson, brought George his first real fame and led to his writing a succession of 22 musical comedies, most with his older brother, Ira. The Gershwins' shows include Lady Be Good, Oh, Kay!, Strike Up the Band, Girl Crazy, and the Pulitzer Prize winning Of Thee I Sing. From his early career George had ambitions to compose serious music, and his classical masterpieces include "Rhapsody In Blue," "Concerto In F," "An American In Paris" and "Second Rhapsody." In the late '20s George became fascinated by the DuBose Heyward novel Porgy, recognizing it as a perfect vehicle for opera using jazz and blues idioms. The folk opera Porgy and Bess had its Broadway premiere in October of 1935. In 1937 George was at the height of his career. While working on the score of The Goldwyn Follies in Hollywood, he collapsed, and on July 11, died of a brain tumor. He was not quite 39 years old.
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