Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Song Without A Lyric Is Like H2 Without The 0

I have a lifelong passion for the lyrics of the popular song & theatre music. I enjoy reading a lyric on the printed page as poetry. Among the very greatest, a personal favorite, is Ira Gershwin who celebrates his 116th birthday today.

Ira Gershwin worked with his younger brother, composer George Gershwin, to create some of the most memorable songs of the 20th century: I Got Rhythm, Embraceable You, The Man I Love, Someone to Watch Over Me, & the score for their opera Porgy & Bess.

The success the brothers had with their collaborations has often overshadowed the creative role that Ira played. His masterly lyric writing went on after the early death of George from a brain hemorrhage.

He wrote additional hit songs with composers Jerome Kern, Kurt Weill & Harold Arlen. Ira Gershwin gave us the words to: But Not For Me, Embraceable You, I Can't Get Started,I Got Rhythm, The Man I Love, They Can't Take That Away From Me, Someone to Watch Over Me, 'S Wonderful, The Man That Got Away, Strike Up the Band, among hundreds of others.

Last year, The Gershwin Prize for Popular Song was awarded to Burt Bacharach & Hal David by President Barack Obama. The Library of Congress named its Prize for Popular Song after Ira & his brother George. Recognizing the profound & positive effect of popular music on the world's culture, the prize is given annually to a composer or performer whose lifetime contributions exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins: 2007 - Paul Simon, 2008 - Stevie Wonder, 2009 - Paul McCartney.

Ira Gershwin’s critically acclaimed book Lyrics On Several Occasions (1959), a combo of autobiography & annotated anthology, sits in my bookcase along with books about other songwriters. It is one of my favorites.

For me, Someone To Watch Over Me is a perfect song. I offer up Linda Ronstadt's & version with a Nelson Riddle arrangement as my argument:

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