A multiple Grammy-winning performer of and advocate for American popular song offers the story of his long affection for the work of the Gershwins.
Feinstein (Nice Work If You Can Get It: My Life in Rhythm and Rhyme, 1995) begins with a swift account of how he met Ira Gershwin, the lyricist of the celebrated duo, and how he subsequently went to work for him for six years, researching, identifying and cataloging Gershwin materials. The author has hit upon a happy way to organize this dual biography/celebration: He selects a dozen classic Gershwin songs (from “Strike Up the Band” to “Love Is Here to Stay”), which he arranges not chronologically but biographically. This approach effectively illuminates the lives and careers of his principals. As the title indicates, Feinstein is the third subject. Although he tells the Gershwins’ stories, childhood to grave, he also relates his own history with their music and reveals his great respect for their achievements. Although Feinstein knew Ira and writes affectingly about his lyrics, his admiration of George—pianist and composer—soars. Repeatedly, he lauds George’s artistry at the keyboard and his enduring compositions. Feinstein also discusses the Gershwins’ love lives, the significant performers of their work (from Fred Astaire to Ethel Merman), their successes and flops, their experiences in Hollywood and the devastation of George’s shocking death at 38 (brain tumor). The author includes stories about his own preferences and performances, tales of his avid collecting, minirants about music education and some shots at others (Virgil Thompson among them).
Frisky, affectionate, lushly illustrated, deeply informed and profoundly respectful.