Stories of Standards: "But Not For Me"

Apr 17, 2017

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Ginger Rogers introduced “But Not For Me” by George and Ira Gershwin on October 14, 1930, in the musical “Girl Crazy”. Although well received, Rogers’ leading lady debut was overshadowed by Ethel Merman’s show-stopping introduction of “I Got Rhythm”. With the Red Nichols Band in the pit, with occasional jam sessions, and George Gershwin conducting the music at the premier, “Girl Crazy” ran for 272 performances. RKO produced “Girl Crazy” in 1932, which included only four of the original songs and got poor reviews. MGM’s 1943 version kept the original story and score almost entirely intact and starred Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.

Despite his short life George Gershwin (1898-1937) was one of America’s greatest and most influential composers. His first hit (“Swanee” in 1918) was a great success for Al Jolson in the 1919 show “Sinbad”. He was the first to combine serious and popular music (“Rhapsody in Blue” in 1924), the first to score a Pulitzer Prize winning musical (“Of Thee I Sing” in 1931) and the first to write an American opera (“Porgy and Bess” in 1935). His health deteriorated in 1937 and was diagnosed as a brain tumor shortly before his death.

Ira Gershwin (1896-1983) began writing music while attending Townsend Harris High School in New York City, where his first collaborator and close friend was E. Y. “Yip” Harburg. In 1924 Ira began writing with his younger brother George, in what proved to be one of the most successful partnerships in American musical history. Ira’s partners after George’s death included Kurt Weill, Jerome Kern and Harold Arlen. As noted by the Songwriters Hall of Fame: “On Dec. 6, 1996, Ira was the first lyricist to be honored by a special tribute performance on the centennial observance of his birth, in New York's Carnegie Hall.”

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George Gershwin & Ginger Rogers