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George Gershwin & Ira Gershwin

2015 Legend Award


George Gershwin, born in 1896 and his brother Ira, born in 1898 are two of the most influential figures in the history of the Great American Songbook.  While successful individually, it was their first musical together, 1924’s LADY BE GOOD which saw the Gershwin brothers popularity skyrocket. From 1924 until George’s untimely death in 1937, George and Ira worked together almost exclusively, creating iconic pieces of America’s musical history that include STRIKE UP THE BAND, OF THEE I SING, and GIRL CRAZY. Together with DuBose Heyward they wrote PORGY AND BESS, which is now recognized as one of the most significant American musical compositions of the twentieth century. During the mid-1930s, George’s health deteriorated rapidly; he passed away from complications related to a brain tumor at the age of thirty-eight.


The brothers enjoyed success individually as well. George, a classically-trained pianist and composer, wrote pieces that remain highly regarded today.  These include his "Rhapsody in Blue" and the score for the film An American in Paris. Ira continued to work actively following the death of his brother George. Over the ensuing decades he collaborated with such composers as Jerome Kern, Kurt Weill, Harold Arlen, and Arthur Schwartz. Michael Feinstein's 2012 book The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs describes his years working for Ira in Los Angeles.


In 1985, the Gershwins were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal; only three other composers or lyricists have received this significant honor.


To learn more about George and Ira's significant contributions to the Great American Songbook, visit


Photo credit: Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trusts.