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The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs

The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs

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by Michael Feinstein

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From celebrated entertainer Michael Feinstein comes a beautifully illustrated account of the lives and legacies of the Gershwins—told through stories of twelve of their greatest songs.

The “Ambassador of the Great American Songbook” Michael Feinstein was just twenty years old when he got the chance of a lifetime: a job with his hero, Ira


From celebrated entertainer Michael Feinstein comes a beautifully illustrated account of the lives and legacies of the Gershwins—told through stories of twelve of their greatest songs.

The “Ambassador of the Great American Songbook” Michael Feinstein was just twenty years old when he got the chance of a lifetime: a job with his hero, Ira Gershwin. During their six-year partnership, the two became close friends. Feinstein blossomed under Gershwin’s mentorship and Gershwin was reinvigorated by the younger man’s zeal for his and his brother George’s legacy. Now, in The Gershwins and Me, the only book of its kind, Michael Feinstein shares unforgettable stories and reminiscences from the music that defined American popular song, along with rare Gershwin memorabilia he’s collected through the years.

From “Strike Up the Band” to “Love Is Here to Stay,” each of the twelve chapters highlights one of the Gershwins’ classic songs, exploring the brothers’ lives, illuminating what the music meant to them, and telling the stories of how their iconic tunes came to life. Throughout the star-studded narrative, Feinstein unfolds the moving chronicle of his own life with the Gershwins, describing his vision for their enduring presence today. No other writer could give us such an authoritative inside perspective on these titans of American culture.

A timeless classic and the definitive account of the Gershwins and their legacy, The Gershwins and Me will having you humming with every turn of the page.

Editorial Reviews

With songs like "I Got Rhythm," "Embraceable You," and "The Man I Love," composer and pianist George Gershwin (1898-1937) and lyricist Ira Gershwin (1896-1983) carved their names in the golden age of American song. Michael Feinstein, the author of this book, enjoyed rare access to their history, having devoted six years of his life to working with Ira on their mutual love of musical heritage. In this unique memoir, Feinstein presents the Gershwins through the portals of twelve of their immortal songs. A unique, up-close view of two modern musical theatre masters.

The New York Times Book Review
At its best, The Gershwins and Me will drive one to sustained Gershwin listening—and, as Ira once wrote, who could ask for anything more?
—Michael Feingold
Publishers Weekly
Known as the ambassador of the Great American Songbook, musician Feinstein includes a 12-track CD in this combination autobiography and biography of George and Ira Gershwin. At age 20, Feinstein was hired by Ira to catalogue the lyricist's archives, and the two became close friends over the next six years. Ira died in 1983, and two years later, Feinstein released his debut album, Pure Gershwin. Now he looks back over his "years of obsession," sharing artifacts from his collection of memorabilia, including personal photos, promotional stage shots, sheet music, correspondence, hand-written lyric fragments, and paintings by the Gershwins. Feinstein writes with wit, humor, and attitude, including fascinating bits of trivia and illuminating anecdotes. Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, and other composers are considered, too. With much space devoted to revisions made in lyrics and ways of interpreting songs, Feinstein deplores how modern productions have stripped these songs of their drama, as in the "travesty" biopic film De-Lovely. Combining text, images and audio into a unique single package, this is an impressive celebration of the Gershwins and their lasting legacy. (Oct. 16)
From the Publisher
“Frisky, affectionate, lushly illustrated, deeply informed and profoundly respectful.”—Kirkus Reviews
Kirkus Reviews
A multiple Grammy-winning performer of and advocate for American popular song offers the story of his long affection for the work of the Gershwins. Feinstein (Nice Work If You Can Get It: My Life in Rhythm and Rhyme, 1995) begins with a swift account of how he met Ira Gershwin, the lyricist of the celebrated duo, and how he subsequently went to work for him for six years, researching, identifying and cataloging Gershwin materials. The author has hit upon a happy way to organize this dual biography/celebration: He selects a dozen classic Gershwin songs (from "Strike Up the Band" to "Love Is Here to Stay"), which he arranges not chronologically but biographically. This approach effectively illuminates the lives and careers of his principals. As the title indicates, Feinstein is the third subject. Although he tells the Gershwins' stories, childhood to grave, he also relates his own history with their music and reveals his great respect for their achievements. Although Feinstein knew Ira and writes affectingly about his lyrics, his admiration of George--pianist and composer--soars. Repeatedly, he lauds George's artistry at the keyboard and his enduring compositions. Feinstein also discusses the Gershwins' love lives, the significant performers of their work (from Fred Astaire to Ethel Merman), their successes and flops, their experiences in Hollywood and the devastation of George's shocking death at 38 (brain tumor). The author includes stories about his own preferences and performances, tales of his avid collecting, minirants about music education and some shots at others (Virgil Thompson among them). Frisky, affectionate, lushly illustrated, deeply informed and profoundly respectful.

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Simon & Schuster
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Meet the Author

Michael Feinstein is an entertainer and educator known as one of the leading experts on classic American popular music. A five-time Grammy nominee, he performs, records, and lectures extensively and has been awarded three honorary doctorate degrees. Learn more about Michael Feinstein at MichaelFeinstein.com.

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The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
tedfeit0 More than 1 year ago
Perusing this book is much like attending a cabaret performance by Michael Feinstein: It is replete with personal anecdotes and examples of the Great American Songbook. It is accompanied by a CD of 12 of the best Gershwin tunes. And the illustrations, many of which are from the author’s personal collection amassed over decades, are not only impressive but a rare addition to an informative work. At the age of 20, Feinstein became the personal assistant to Ira Gershwin, helping to catalog the work of perhaps the greatest songwriting team in American history [Ira with his brother, George, of course]. He spent six years at the task, which certainly qualifies him as one of the foremost authorities on his subject. The book not only addresses the Gershwins’ impressive output, but the whole genre, which he dates back to the writing of Swanee. He suggests the tunes of George and lyrics of Ira, fresh and vital, helped to shape the attitudes, morals and beliefs of the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s. And beyond the Gershwins, he looks at the whole genre: Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Rogers and Hart, Harry Warren and Harold Arlen, and how they were influenced by the brothers Gershwin. In case you’re wondering, the twelve songs are: “Strike Up the Band,” “’S Wonderful,” “I’ve Got a Crush on You,” “They All Laughed,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Embraceable You,” “Who Cares?,” “I Got Plenty of Nuthin’,” “They Can’t Take Than Away from Me,” “I Got Rhythm,” and “Love Is Here to Stay.” Not only are the Gerswins memorable, but this book will be as well: for its information and art. It certainly should, and will be, I am certain, a lot more than just a display on a coffee table. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Everyone who enjoys great American music and songs must obtain a copy of this book written superbly by Michael Feinstein. As a bonus, the book includes a CD by the author. If not for yourself, this book makes a wonderful gift!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I heard the author today on NPR and I cannot wait to read this book. My first thought was, my grandmother (educated polish woman who loves biographies and classical music) would LOVE this book. Only problem, she doesn't speak polish. I am considering translating this book as her birthday gift.