Music: Death of Gershwin

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When Composer George Gershwin crumpled in Hollywood last fortnight, doctors called it overwork. Last week, when he collapsed again they found a cystic tumor growing fast in his brain. Doctors at Hollywood's Cedars of Lebanon Hospital sent a hurry call to Dr. Walter Edward Dandy, great brain surgeon at Johns Hopkins. Gershwin sank so fast they had to operate before Dandy could get there. Next morning at 10:35 a. m., while his brother Ira watched over him, George Gershwin died. Serious musicians joined pluggers and crooners to mourn the 38-year-old composer who had made the world sing his songs and who never, even in his most pretentious work, disdained the antic, impertinent data he had picked up in Tin Pan Alley.

George Gershwin had just been born when his parents moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan's overcrowded Lower East Side. The earliest sounds young Gershwin heard were the clank of dishes in his father's restaurant, the clatter of the Second Avenue El, the confusion and bustle of the ghetto. At 10, the aggressive, wild-haired little boy was the best rollerskater in the block. Even then he would spend his pennies in a Grand Street arcade listening to a mechanical piano hammer out Rubinstein's Melody in F. He was not much older when Mother Gershwin bought a worn old upright, chiefly to keep up with a relative who owned one. Brother Ira was her first choice to play it. George showed more musical zeal, soon became the family pianist. In those days you could get a teacher for 50¢. George had two years of such instruction, never a good teacher until he met Charles Hambitzer. Hambitzer was a composer, ambitious to teach the boy all about Chopin, Liszt and DeBussy. Had he succeeded in sending young Gershwin abroad to study, the history of U. S. jazz might have been different.

At 16, Gershwin left school to plug songs for Jerome Remick & Sons. He made $15 a week. Harry Von Tilzer brought out Gershwin's first song, a complaint entitled When You Want 'em, You Can't Get 'em; When You Got 'em, You Don't Want 'em. He went into vaudeville accompanying Louise Dresser, and later, Nora Bayes. Vivienne Segal plugged his You-oo Just You and There's More to a Kiss Than the XXX.

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