…I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.”
Closing stanza of “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” (1888), BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS.
From the website of Cahal Dallat, London-based poet, critic, musician (b. Ballycastle, Co. Antrim, educ. QUB):
“…while the poem itself contrasts London with the West of Ireland, the immediate inspiration for the poem was Chiswick Eyot, an island very like Innisfree, in the Thames at Old Chiswick, a few hundred yards from his home, as he says in his fictionalised autobiography. It was in Bedford Park’s Blenheim Road that he wrote the poem and read a first draft to his sisters. The genesis of Lake Isle of Innisfree is described by his sister Lily. “In Bedford Park one evening … Willy bursting in having just written, or not even written down but just having brought forth ‘Innisfree’, he repeated it with all the fire of creation of his youth.”…”
“Ira Gershwin was a joyous listener to the sounds of the modern world. “He had a sharp eye and ear for the minutiae of living.” He noted in a diary: “Heard in a day: An elevator’s purr, telephone’s ring, telephone’s buzz, a baby’s moans, a shout of delight, a screech from a ‘flat wheel’, hoarse honks, a hoarse voice, a tinkle, a match scratch on sandpaper, a deep resounding boom of dynamiting in the impending subway, iron hooks on the gutter.”
Ira Gershwin was born Israel Gershowitz on December 6, 1896, at 242 Snediker Avenue in Brooklyn, the oldest of four children of Morris (Moishe) and Rose Gershovitz (née Rosa Bruskin), who were Russian Jews from Saint Petersburg and who had emigrated to the United States in 1891. Ira’s siblings were George (Jacob, b. 1898), Arthur (b. 1900), and Frances (b. 1906). Morris changed the family name to “Gershwine” (or alternatively “Gershvin”) well before their children rose to fame; it was not spelled “Gershwin” until later. Shy in his youth, Ira 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 in 1914 from Townsend Harris High School, a public school for intellectually gifted students, where he met Yip Harburg, with whom he enjoyed a lifelong friendship and a love of Gilbert and Sullivan. He attended the City College of New York but dropped out.
The childhood home of Ira and George Gershwin was in the center of the Yiddish Theater District, on the second floor at 91 Second Avenue, between East 5th Street and East 6th Street. They frequented the local Yiddish theaters.
While George began composing and “plugging” in Tin Pan Alley from the age of 18, Ira worked as a cashier in his father’s Turkish baths. It was not until 1921 that Ira became involved in the music business. Alex Aarons signed Ira to write the songs for his next show, Two Little Girls in Blue, ultimately produced by Abraham Erlanger, along with co-composers Vincent Youmans and Paul Lannin. So as not to appear to trade off George’s growing reputation, Ira wrote under the pseudonym “Arthur Francis”, after his youngest two siblings. His lyrics were well received, allowing him successfully to enter the show-business world with just one show.
Later the same year, the Gershwins collaborated for the first time on a score; this was for A Dangerous Maid, which played in Atlantic City and on tour.
It was not until 1924 that Ira and George teamed up to write the music for what became their first Broadway hit Lady, Be Good. Once the brothers joined forces, their combined talents became one of the most influential forces in the history of American Musical Theatre. “When the Gershwins teamed up to write songs for Lady, Be Good, the American musical found its native idiom.”
Together, they wrote the music for more than 12 shows and four films. Some of their more famous works include “The Man I Love”, “Fascinating Rhythm”, “Someone to Watch Over Me”, “I Got Rhythm” and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me”. Their partnership continued until George’s sudden death from a brain tumor in 1937. Following his brother’s death, Ira waited nearly three years before writing again.
After this temporary retirement, Ira teamed up with accomplished composers such as Jerome Kern (Cover Girl); Kurt Weill (Where Do We Go from Here?; Lady in the Dark); and Harold Arlen (Life Begins at 8:40; A Star Is Born).
Over the next 14 years, Gershwin continued to write the lyrics for many film scores and a few Broadway shows. But the failure of Park Avenue in 1946 (a “smart” show about divorce, co-written with composer Arthur Schwartz) was his farewell to Broadway. As he wrote at the time, “Am reading a couple of stories for possible musicalization (if there is such a word) but I hope I don’t like them as I think I deserve a long rest.”
In 1947, he took 11 songs George had written but never used, provided them with new lyrics, and incorporated them into the Betty Grable film The Shocking Miss Pilgrim. He later wrote comic lyrics for Billy Wilder’s 1964 movie Kiss Me, Stupid, although most critics believe his final major work was for the 1954 Judy Garland film A Star Is Born.
His critically acclaimed 1959 book Lyrics on Several Occasions, 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.
According to a 1999 story in Vanity Fair, Ira Gershwin’s love for loud music was as great as his wife’s loathing of it. When Debby Boone—daughter-in-law of his neighbor Rosemary Clooney—returned from Japan with one of the first Sony Walkmans (utilizing cassette tape), Clooney gave it to Michael Feinstein to give to Ira, “so he could crank it in his ears, you know. And he said, ‘This is absolutely wonderful!’ And he called his broker and bought Sony stock!”
Ira Gershwin died on 17 August 1983.”
From the website of the Jewish Virtual Library:
“Benny Goodman was the eighth of 11 children of David and Dora, nee Grinsky, Goodman. He was born on May 30, 1909. His father was a poor tailor, who had emigrated from Warsaw, Poland. The family lived in Chicago. Surviving was always a tremendous struggle for the Goodmans. The Goodmans learned that Kehelah Jacob Synagogue was giving music lessons and lending instruments to the students for only 25 cents a week. Benny and his two older brothers went to the synagogue for lessons. Harry, the oldest, was given a tuba. Freddie got a trumpet. Benny, the smallest and youngest, was given a clarinet…
…Goodman died on June 13, 1986.”