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Happy Birthday, George Gershwin!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018 by Mary O'Connor | birthday

George GershwinGeorge Gershwin lived between September 26, 1898 and July 11, 1937. He is considered to be a twentieth century composer.

If you hate homework but like roller skating, you have something in common with American composer George Gershwin. Born in Brooklyn, New York to Russian immigrant parents, George loved to play street hockey, 'cat', and punch ball. He didn’t even have an interest in music until his family got him a piano when he was twelve. Nine years later he had his first hit, "Swanee", with lyrics written by Irving Caesar. No one else in the Gershwin family was musical, but George was fascinated by music. When he heard a schoolmate play the violin, George struck up a friendship with the boy who introduced him to the world of concert music.

Gershwin's American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue (featured in Disney's newly released Fantasia 2000) proved that jazz was powerful enough to combine will with symphonic music. Gershwin was only 26 years old at the time when he composed Rhapsody in Blue. No matter how you hear it, "Rhapsody in Blue" will remain the signature of one of the most influential of composers, songwriters and pianists in American music history.

His play Porgy and Bess has been produced as both a film and an opera.

 


Happy Birthday, Ray Charles!

Sunday, September 23, 2018 by Mary O'Connor | birthday

Ray Charles (Robinson) was a singer, pianist, composer who was born in Albany, Ga in 1930. He lost his sight (from glaucoma) when he was six and attended a school for the blind where he learned to read and write music in braille and play piano and organ.

Orphaned at age 15, he left school and began playing music to earn a living, moving to Seattle, Wash., in 1947. Dropping his last name, he performed at clubs in the smooth lounge-swing style of Nat "King" Cole.

After some hits on Swing Time Records, he switched to Atlantic Records in 1952 and began to develop a rougher blues and gospel style. For New Orleans bluesman, Guitar Slim, he arranged and played piano on "The Things I Used To Do" (1953); the record sold a million copies. He went on to record his own "I've Got a Woman" in 1955 with an arrangement of horns, gospel-style piano, and impassioned vocals that led to the gospel-pop and soul music of the 1960s and to his hit "What'd I Say" (1959).

Possessing a multifaceted talent, he recorded with jazz vibist Milt Jackson, made a country and western album that sold 3 million copies (1962), and continued to release a variety of pop hits, Broadway standards, and blues, gospel, and jazz albums. A major influence on popular black music during his early years, he gradually reached out to influence both white musicians and audiences. And although he had been convicted of using drugs in the 1950s, he lived to see the day when he was so acceptable to mainstream Americans that he became virtually the chief image for promoting Pepsi-Cola and he was asked to perform at many national patriotic and political events.

 



Jelly Roll Morton’s Birthday

Thursday, September 20, 2018 by Mary O'Connor | birthday

jelly-grandpa

 



 

Jelly Roll Morton, born Ferdinand Joseph La Menthe in 1885, was one of the most influential composers of the jazz era, bridging an important gap between ragtime, blues, and jazz. In a sense, he was the first great jazz composer.

His career began in New Orleans, where he began to experiment with a unique blend of blues, ragtime, Creole, and Spanish music in bordellos as a piano player. Along with being a musician, he also worked as a gambler, pool shark, vaudeville comedian, and was known for his flamboyant personality and diamond front tooth.

Morton became successful when he started making what would be some of the first jazz recordings in 1923 with "the New Orleans Rhythm Kings". Whether he played on the West Coast, New Orleans, or in Chicago, his recordings were always very popular. He joined the group "the Red Hot Peppers" in 1924 and made several classic albums with the Victor label.

Nothing but success came to him until 1930, when "Hot Jazz" began to die out, and big bands began to take over. Morton died in 1941, claiming that a voodoo spell was the cause of his demise.

 

   anniversary of Morton's death

  Read quotes by and about Morton