Ira Gershwin

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Ira Gershwin (December 6, 1896 – August 17, 1983) was an American lyricist who collaborated with his younger brother, composer George Gershwin, to create some of the most memorable songs of the 20th century.[1]

With George he wrote more than a dozen Broadway shows, featuring songs such as "I Got Rhythm", "Embraceable You", "The Man I Love" and "Someone to Watch Over Me", and the opera Porgy and Bess.

The success the brothers had with their collaborative works has often overshadowed the creative role that Ira played. However, his mastery of songwriting continued after the early death of George. He wrote additional hit songs with composers Jerome Kern ("Long Ago (and Far Away)"), Kurt Weill and Harold Arlen.

His critically acclaimed book Lyrics on Several Occasions of 1959, an amalgam of autobiography and annotated anthology, is an important source for studying the art of the lyricist in the golden age of American popular song.[2]



Gershwin was born Israel Gershovitz in New York City to Morris (Moishe) and Rose Gershovitz who changed the family name to Gershvin well before their children rose to fame (it was not spelled "Gershwin" until later). Shy in his youth, he spent much of his time at home reading, but from grammar school through college, he played a prominent part in several school newspapers and magazines. He graduated from Townsend Harris High School in 1914, where he met Yip Harburg. He attended the City College of New York but dropped out.[3][4]

While his younger brother began composing and "plugging" in Tin Pan Alley from the age of eighteen, Ira worked as a cashier in his father's Turkish baths.[5] It was not until 1921 that Ira became involved in the music business. Alex Aarons signed Ira to write the music for his next show, Two Little Girls in Blue (written under the pseudonym "Arthur Francis"), ultimately produced by Abraham Erlanger, with co-composers Vincent Youmans and Paul Lannin. Gershwin's lyrics were well received and allowed him to successfully enter the theatre world with just one show.[4]

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