Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ira Gershwin Facts: Our Love Is Here To Stay

Ira Gershwin was simply one of the best lyricists that has ever written for the stage.  His words… urbane, his rhymes… clever, and he literally created new ways to use language in song.  His legacy lives on in the expressions he chose to set to music.

In his lifetime, those words brought him many honors, including the highest of American literary awards: The Pulitzer Prize for Drama.  Ira was the first lyricist deemed worthy enough to win the honor along with his “book” cohorts George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind for the musical Of Thee I Sing. 
Unfortunately, the Tony Awards didn’t really come about until after Ira left New York for California.  However, he was also nominated for three Oscars for his work in Hollywood.  Interestingly, each of Ira’s nominations was crafted from songs written by different composers: “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” (music by George Gershwin, 1937), “Long Ago and Far Away” (music by Jerome Kern, 1944), and “The Man that Got Away” (music by Harold Arlen, 1954).
Also in LA, George and Ira re-wrote a version of “Strike Up the Band” for UCLA in 1936.  As a Bruin myself, I would like to humbly thank the Gershwins!  I would also like to chide UCLA for no longer using the song.  However, in appreciation UCLA created the George and Ira Gershwin Lifetime Musical Achievement Award.  Past winners have included Angela Lansbury, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Burt Bacharach, and Julie Andrews.

In 1992, Ira would contribute lyrics to a Tony Award-winning show with Crazy For You, a major reworking of Girl Crazy.
In 1973, the Post Office issued an 8-cent postage stamp to honor the Gershwins in the American Art series.

In 1985, they were awarded a Congressional Gold Medal “to honor their contribution to the American Spirit.”
In 1998, the Pultizer committee finally rectified the error they had made to George with a posthumous special Pulitzer Prize to them both, awarded on the centennial of his brother's birth. 
The Library of Congress has named its Prize for Popular Song after the brothers; the award began in 2007. 
I could go on, but I won’t.  Suffice it to say our fascination with Ira Gershwin, and his brother, will live on.  They can’t take that away from me… or you.  Come celebrate Ira’s legacy with us at Nice Work If You Can Get It: An Ira Gershwin Salon, at the Alcazar Theater, 7PM tonight.  For tickets click here, or call (415) 255-8207. 

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