In Honor of George Gershwin’s 121st Birthday

September 26, 2019

The captivating new book Summertime: George Gershwin’s Life in Music (W. W. Norton; $39.95) is the culmination of nearly twenty years of research by Richard Crawford, Emeritus Professor of Musicology at the University of Michigan.

Over the course of his nearly 600-page volume, the author traces the many paths of George Gershwin’s career – song plugger, piano accompanist, popular songwriter, composer of classical works, celebrity – from the perspective of an “academic scholar.” As the subtitle suggests, the focus of Summertime is not so much Gershwin’s life as Gershwin’s music and his attempts to straddle the (at the time) rather rigid lines between the popular music of stage and screen and the concert hall. Appropriately then, Crawford ends his recitation of Gershwin’s journey from New York’s Lower East Side shortly after the composer’s death in Southern California on July 11, 1937, choosing to refrain from following how Gershwin’s music has been used in subsequent decades and how his reputation has grown.

As George Gershwin’s body of work increasingly comes under the microscope of the academic community, Crawford’s Summertime leaves open many new avenues of research for future Gershwin scholars.

— Michael Owen