(1898-1937) proved himself to be not only one of the great songwriters of his extremely rich era, but also a gifted "serious" composer who bridged the worlds of classical and popular music. The latter is all the more striking, given that, of his contemporaries,
's first major hit, interpolated into the show Sinbad in 1919, was "Swanee," sung by Al Jolson
wrote both complete scores and songs for such variety shoes as George White
's Scandals (whose annual editions thus were able to introduce such songs as "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise" and "Somebody Loves Me").
After 1924, Gershwin
worked primarily with his brother Ira
as his lyricist. The two scored a series of Broadway hits in the '20s and early '30s, starting with Lady Be Good (1924), which included the song "Fascinatin' Rhythm." 1924 was also the year Gershwin
composed his first classical piece, "Rhapsody in Blue," and he would continue to work in the classical field until his death.
By the '30s, the Gershwins
had turned to political topics and satire in response to the onset of the Depression, and their Of Thee I Sing became the first musical to win a Pulitzer Prize. In the mid '30s, Gershwin
ambitiously worked to meld his show music and classical leanings in the creation of the folk opera Porgy and Bess, with lyrics by Ira
and Dubose Heyward
. The Gershwins
had moved to Hollywood and were engaged in several movie projects at the time of George Gershwin