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Ira Gershwin

Ron Skolnik
December 6, 2017

Lyricist Ira Gershwin (Israel Gershowitz), a Pulitzer Prize-winner (for Of Thee I Sing, 1932) and prolific songwriting collaborator with his younger brother, George Gershwin, was born on the Lower East Side of New York on this date in 1896. His parents were immigrants from Russia, who had come to the U.S. in 1891. After taking odd jobs as a steam room attendant, photographer’s assistant and carnival business manager, Gershwin tried his hand at lyric writing, often using the pen name “Arthur Francis.” He would go on to co-create such standards as “I Got Rhythm,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” (all composed by brother George), written for a string of Broadway shows and Hollywood films in the 1920s and ’30s. Gershwin also co-wrote (with DuBose Heyward) the libretto for Porgy and Bess (1935). After George’s sudden death in 1937, Gershwin took a three-year break from songwriting, but would later team up with Jerome Kern (“Long Ago and Far Away”), Harold Arlen (“The Man that Got Away”), and other notable composers. Ira Gershwin died in 1983, at age 86. He and George were posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1985.

“It’s very clear our love is here to stay
Not for a year, but ever and a day.
The radio and the telephone
And the movies that we know.
May just be passing fancies and in time may go.
But, oh my dear, our love is here to stay . . . “
—Ira Gershwin, “Love Is Here to Stay” (1938)