George Gershwin: His Life and Work / Edition 1

Hardcover (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $9.63
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 81%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (11) from $9.63   
  • New (4) from $40.00   
  • Used (7) from $9.63   


This comprehensive biography of George Gershwin (1898-1937) unravels the myths surrounding one of America's most celebrated composers and establishes the enduring value of his music. Gershwin created some of the most beloved music of the twentieth century and, along with Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, and Cole Porter, helped make the golden age of Broadway golden. Howard Pollack draws from a wealth of sketches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, books, articles, recordings, films, and other materials—including a large cache of Gershwin scores discovered in a Warner Brothers warehouse in 1982—to create an expansive chronicle of Gershwin’s meteoric rise to fame. He also traces Gershwin’s powerful presence that, even today, extends from Broadway, jazz clubs, and film scores to symphony halls and opera houses.

Pollack’s lively narrative describes Gershwin’s family, childhood, and education; his early career as a pianist; his friendships and romantic life; his relation to various musical trends; his writings on music; his working methods; and his tragic death at the age of 38. Unlike Kern, Berlin, and Porter, who mostly worked within the confines of Broadway and Hollywood, Gershwin actively sought to cross the boundaries between high and low, and wrote works that crossed over into a realm where art music, jazz, and Broadway met and merged. The author surveys Gershwin’s entire oeuvre, from his first surviving compositions to the melodies that his brother and principal collaborator, Ira Gershwin, lyricized after his death. Pollack concludes with an exploration of the performances and critical reception of Gershwin's music over the years, from his time to ours.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Pollack presents a fresh stance on the legendary composer in a monumental biography. . . . A fascinating narrative of Gershwin's life."—Opera Journal
Opera Journal - Stephanie Poxon
“Pollack presents a fresh stance on the legendary composer in a monumental biography. . . . A fascinating narrative of Gershwin’s life.”
Peter Keepnews
This is surely the closest reading Gershwin’s music has ever received. “Rhapsody in Blue” and the other concert pieces get scrupulous attention, of course, generally admiring if not entirely uncritical. So does “Porgy and Bess,” Gershwin’s only full-length opera, which Pollack examines in four tour-de-force chapters from every conceivable angle, racial and social as well as musical, beginning with the work’s genesis and ending with a brief but intelligent survey of the many jazz and pop versions of its score. But unlike previous biographers, he takes a microscopic look at everything Gershwin wrote, or at least everything that survives.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
University of Houston music professor Pollack (Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man) offers a look at Gershwin so exhaustive and comprehensive that it stands as a definitive statement. Bibliographic notes filling 100 pages indicate the extent of this in-depth re-examination. Scholarly yet entertaining, Pollack's survey is not chronological; it's divided into two book-length sections. In part one, a study of popular music trends serves as an overture to Gershwin's musical influences, his childhood and Tin Pan Alley years, followed by a look at Gershwin as a pianist and conductor through his death from a brain tumor at the age of 38. The book's second half, titled "Work,'' is an ambitious attempt to document Gershwin's entire output, from orchestral works to theater, radio and films, including the role of lyricist Ira Gershwin in reworking his brother's tunes, as he did for Billy Wilder's 1964 film Kiss Me, Stupid. The creation of Porgy and Bess and subsequent revivals, films, concerts, recordings and jazz interpretations (notably by Miles Davis) fill several chapters with fascinating details. Gershwin's innovative synthesis of classical, blues and jazz into a "glorious body of work" is illuminated by Pollack's insightful analysis. 51 b&w photos. (Dec.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Pollack (music, Univ. of Houston; Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man) here turns his attention to another American composer, George Gershwin (1898-1937). While he lacks the firsthand knowledge of which many previous biographers boasted, e.g., David Ewen in A Journey to Greatness: The Life and Music of George Gershwin (1956), Pollack has the advantage of perspective and new materials discovered in a warehouse in 1982. The book is organized into two broad sections: "Life" presents a balanced treatment of important events and people, including Gershwin's mother; "Work" tackles the whole of Gershwin's oeuvre, beginning with "Ragging the Traumerei" in 1913 and ending with the music he wrote for The Goldwyn Follies shortly before he died in 1937. Pollack treats Gershwin as primarily a composer for the theater and therefore focuses on the many forms theater music may assume. There are synopses of the stories for each of Gershwin's shows, many of which cannot be found elsewhere. The depth of detail and research into Gershwin's works (more than 100 pages of endnotes) makes this an essential purchase for all libraries and one of the best books available on Gershwin. Bruce R. Schueneman, Texas A&M Univ. Lib., Kingsville Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520248649
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 1/15/2007
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 901
  • Sales rank: 818,445
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 2.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Howard Pollack is John and Rebecca Moores Professor of Music at the University of Houston. Among his books are Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man and John Alden Carpenter: A Chicago Composer.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents


1. Gershwin and His Family
2. Gershwin’s Musical Education to the Rhapsody in Blue (1924)
3. Gershwin and the New Popular Music
4. The Popular Pianist
5. Toward a Career in the Theater
6. Gershwin among His Friends
7. Later Studies
8. Gershwin and the Great Tradition
9. Gershwin and Popular Music and Jazz after 1920
10. Working Methods
11. Gershwin the Man

12. From “Ragging the Traumerei” (ca. 1913) to The Capitol Revue (1919)
13. From Morris Gest’s Midnight Whirl (1919) to The Perfect Fool (1921)
14. From The French Doll to Our Nell (1922)
15. From The Sunshine Trail to Sweet Little Devil (1923)
16. The Rhapsody in Blue (1924)
17. The Scandals of 1924, Primrose, and Lady, Be Good! (1924)
18. Short Story, Tell Me More, and the Concerto in F (1925)
19. Tip-Toes and Song of the Flame (1925)
20. Oh, Kay! and Other Works (1926)
21. Strike Up the Band and Funny Face (1927)
22. Rosalie and Treasure Girl (1928)
23. An American in Paris (1928) and East Is West (1929)
24. Show Girl and The Dybbuk (1929)
25. Girl Crazy (1930)
26. Delicious and the Second Rhapsody (1931)
27. Of Thee I Sing (1931)
28. George Gershwin’s Song-Book (1932)
29. The Cuban Overture (1932) and Pardon My English (1933)
30. Let ’Em Eat Cake (1933) and Variations on “I Got Rhythm” (1934)
31. Porgy and Bess (1935)
32. The First Production of Porgy and Bess
33. Porgy and Bess in Revival
34. Porgy and Bess on Disc, Film, and the Concert Stage
35. From Swing Is King (1936) to A Damsel in Distress (1937)
36. From The Goldwyn Follies (1938) to Kiss Me, Stupid (1964)

Selected Bibliography


Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)