Summertime: George Gershwin’s Life in Music

Norton. Sept. 2019. 592p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780393052152. $39.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393635416. MUSIC
Crawford (emeritus, Univ. of Michigan; America’s Musical Life) adds to the many biographies of composer George Gershwin. He clearly chronicles Gershwin’s early life, his start in the music business, the songs he wrote for musical comedies, and his 1924 breakthrough with Rhapsody in Blue at Paul Whiteman’s influential concert at Aeolian Hall. Crawford describes Gershwin’s work on nearly 25 Broadway musicals and films and showcases the contributions of his older brother, lyricist Ira Gershwin. The book concludes with six chapters on Gershwin’s timeless classic Porgy and Bess (1935), completed only two years before his untimely death from a brain tumor. Throughout, the author illustrates Gershwin’s connection to early jazz and the composer’s attempt to bridge classical and popular music.
VERDICT Though this meticulously researched volume unearths a few fresh facts, Crawford treads little new ground in retelling the story of this iconic American composer. For anyone unfamiliar with previous Gershwin biographies, such as Howard Pollack’s in-depth George Gershwin. [See Prepub Alert, 3/17/19.]

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