Delishious – A Gershwin News Update

December 30, 2020

News from the world of George and Ira Gershwin.

The Library of Congress recently announced the digitization of the original bound, handwritten manuscript of George Gershwin’s two-piano score of the Rhapsody in Blue that the estate of George and Ira’s mother, Rose, donated to the Library in 1953.  A discussion of the history of this iconic composition was posted to the Library’s blog earlier this month.


Roger Berlind, whose four decades as a Broadway producer included twenty-five Tony Awards for new plays, including Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing (1984), and new musicals, most recently Dear Evan Hansen (2017), died on December 18 in Manhattan at the age of 90. We remain thankful for his participation as one of the producers of the Gershwin musicals Nice Work If You Can Get It (Best Musical nominee, 2012) and An American in Paris (Best Musical nominee, 2015).


The Tony Award-nominated actress Rebecca Luker, who passed away on December 23 from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at the too-early age of 59, will long be remembered for the luminous soprano voice that she brought to the long-running Broadway musical Phantom of the Opera, but we’ll recall her here for her work on the cast recordings of the restored Gershwin musicals Strike Up the Band (Roxbury Recordings/Elektra 1991 and PS Classics 2011), Life Begins at 8:40 (PS Classics, 2010), and Sweet Little Devil (PS Classics 2012). In memory of Rebecca, here is her performance of “It Was Long Ago” (Harold Arlen/Ira Gershwin/E. Y. Harburg) from Life Begins at 8:40.


Finally, some music to give us hope at the end of a troubling year: three versions of “It’s a New World,” one of Ira Gershwin’s best late-career songs. First, the original, sung by Judy Garland, from the soundtrack of the 1954 Warner Bros. movie A Star Is Born; then a 1956 jazz instrumental by pianist Russ Freeman and flautist Bud Shank; and finally, Lena Horne singing a set of revised lyrics that Ira was asked to write for her to sing at a 1963 Carnegie Hall civil rights benefit concert. The song’s composer, Harold Arlen, is at the piano in this performance from a CBS television salute to Arlen broadcast the following year.

Wishing you and yours a Happy New Year!

— Michael Owen