Ira Gershwin: The Art of the Lyricist

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9780195082999: Ira Gershwin: The Art of the Lyricist
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To the perennial question "which comes first, the music or the words?" Ira Gershwin always responded, "the contract." The jest reveals both Ira's consummate professionalism and the self-effacing wit with which he ducked the spotlight whenever possible. Yet the ingeniously inventive melodies George Gershwin composed for such classic songs as "Someone to Watch Over Me," "Embraceable You," "Fascinating Rhythm," "It Ain't Necessarily So," and "Love is Here to Stay" live on in no small part because of the equally unforgettable lyrics of Ira Gershwin, lines crafted with a precision that earned him the sobriquet "The Jeweller" among his Broadway peers.
In Ira Gershwin: The Art of the Lyricist, the older and less flamboyant of the Gershwin brothers at last steps out of the shadows to claim his due as one of American songwriting's most important and enduring innovators. Philip Furia traces the development of Ira Gershwin's lyrical art from his early love of light verse and Gilbert and Sullivan, through his apprentice work in Tin Pan Alley, to his emergence as a prominent writer for the Broadway musical theater in the 1920s. Furia illuminates his work in satirical operettas such as Of Thee I Sing and Strike Up the Band, the smart "little" revues of the 1930s, and his contributions to the opera Porgy and Bess. After describing the Gershwin brothers' brief but brilliant work in Hollywood before George's sudden death--work that produced such classics as "They Can't Take That Away From Me" and "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off"--Furia follows Ira's career through such triumphs as Lady in the Dark with Kurt Weill, Cover Girl with Jerome Kern, and A Star is Born, with Harold Arlen. Along the way, Furia provides much insight into the art of the lyricist and he captures the magic of a golden era when not only the Gershwins, but Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II, Gertrude Lawrence, Fred Astaire, and other luminaries made the lights of Broadway and the Hollywood screen shine brighter than ever before.
From his first major success, the now-classic "The Man I Love" (1924) to his last great hit, "The Man That Got Away" (1954), Ira Gershwin wrote the words to some of America's most loved standards. In Ira Gershwin: The Art of the Lyricist, Philip Furia illuminates the craft behind this remarkable achievement to reveal how Gershwin took the everyday speech of ordinary Americans and made it sing.

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About the Author:


About the Author:
Philip Furia is Professor of English at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of The Poets of Tin Pan Alley.

Review:

"For those with an abiding interest in musicals and pop music, this new book is a real gift.... This is the first real tribute to Ira. It's well-deserved and illuminating."--Minneapolis Star Tribune

"A tender protrait of a man who was slow to find his calling, but who, once plugged in, became a sophisticated wit who wrote deceptively simple lyrics for a brother he worshiped."--Time Out New York

"Ira Gershwin is predominantly a lyrical biography of 'the other Gershwin,' as Ira was unfairly called. And nobody understands the rhetoric of a song better than Furia."--The Chicago Tribune

"Mr. Furia presents a clear, focused, highly readable study of Gershwin's lyrics in all their deceptive simplicity.... Mr. Furia's book is a sharp and concise look at the reasons Gershwin's songs have endured."--The New York Times Book Review

"Furia's cogent critical biography is an important study of Ira's career that argues how important his work was in shaping what has become the quintessentially American language."--Booklist

"In an age when much of modern culture seems a matter of vulgarians entertaining barbarians, it is refreshing, even morally so, to be reminded of a period during which popular music was characterized by lushly beautiful melodies and literate, sophisticated and emotionally rational lyrics. The modern audience is free to prefer what it wishes, but it has no sensible right to consider what it prefers superior to that which it disdains. Or, to put the matter more simply, 'Rhapsody in Blue' is better than 'Switchblade Baby, I'm Gonna Stab You Tonight.' Ira Gershwin was a true master of the art of lyric writing, and Mr. Furia has done him great and insightful justice."--Steve Allen

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