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George Gershwin: An Intimate Portrait (Music in American Life) Hardcover – July 21, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"More thorough biographies than Mr. Rimler's slender volume exist ... but for those of us interested less in the technical details of Gershwin's music and its performance than in the comet called George Gershwin that blazed briefly across American skies, Mr. Rimler is the astronomer of choice."The Wall Street Journal


"Compact in length and voluminous in its details, Walter Rimler's study of Gershwin is freighted with melancholy—an appropriate parallel with Gershwin's own life."--TLS

"Rimler shines in weaving together anecdotes, correspondence and a wealth of interviews with the composer and his contemporaries to create a vibrant, flesh-and-blood picture of the man and his music in a readable and enjoyable book."--Jerusalem Post



 "An engrossing, well-written look at Gershwin, the composer and the man, with emphasis on the man."--Choice

"Engagingly written, lavishly illustrated. . . . With this volume, we get a focused portrait of George Gershwin, a genius plagued by self-doubt and a wandering eye."Opera News

Book Description

The dramatic story of a legendary American composer
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Music in American Life
  • Hardcover: 204 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; 1st Edition edition (July 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252034449
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252034442
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #345,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

My biography of composer Harold Arlen (1905-1986) was recently published by the University of Illinois Press. Arlen's music, to quote Bob Dylan, expressed his "lonely intense world." His was a life lived with dignity against a backdrop of tragedy as he wrote many of our greatest and best-loved songs, including "Over the Rainbow," "Stormy Weather," "Blues in the Night," "One For My Baby (and One More For the Road)," "Come Rain or Come Shine," and "A Sleepin' Bee." Another of his compositions gives the book its title: The Man That Got Away: The Life and Songs of Harold Arlen.

I was interviewed by Susan Stamberg of NPR about Arlen on their Weekend Edition program. That interview, which includes excerpts from many Arlen songs, can be heard at:
http://www.npr.org/2015/11/07/455017504/remembering-harold-arlen-the-mystery-man-behind-over-the-rainbow

In 2009 my biography George Gershwin: An Intimate Portrait was published by the University of Illinois Press. My interview by Illinois Public radio about Gershwin can be found at:
https://soundcloud.com/wlawrencer/walter-rimler-interviewed-in-2009-about-gershwin-an-intimate-portrait-interview













Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Just when you thought there could not be any more material to cover Gershwin's short life (the definitive Howard Pollack book of 2006 is possibly the greatest monument) - out comes this little book by Rimmler and it opens new doors into the Gershwin world. Rimmler had access to private letters of Gershwin's lover Kay Swift, and they are distilled into the narrative. This book is a master class in economy, the condensing of information is brilliantly executed and cuts right to the core of fact. We fly along at breakneck speed, still managing to stumble over an anecdote or two that had previously been unheard of. This book is a little marvel! I am ranking it up there in the top five of best Gershwin biographies.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have long been convinced as a college professor, a choral director and a student of American music that George Gershwin ranks among the greatest if not THE greatest American composer. Mr. Rimler's book is a wonderful synthesis of his life and works and it was an unabated joy to read. I would recommend it to anyone who knows and loves Gershwin as I do or else wants to be introduced to this remarkable man. Thanks, Mr. Rimler for a wonderful read.
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Format: Hardcover
A well written and very readable narrative overview of George Gershwin and his times, with engaging thumbnails of the personalities he was associated with. A master songsmith without any formal musical training, the tunes he crafted cover the heyday of New York City's Tin Pan Alley, to the advent of Broadway musicals, as well as American Jazz and a uniquely American opera. Many of the tunes he wrote are still with us and popular today. The book gives a glimpse of the crafting of popular tunes, often accompanied by his brother Ira as lyricist, where a simple word or surprising musical phrase could make a song a hit. Long before MP3 players and iTunes, songsmiths' lived by royalties based on published sheet music, with the Gershwin brothers being consistent masters at it. Gershwin was working to broaden his appeal and artistic skills, but died before his personal masterpiece, Porgy and Bess, became widely recognized and acclaimed. Gershwin was not alone, and his time included other masters of popular music, entertainment and culture, though few as recognizable as he is today. The book's 173 pages are organized into 21 chapters, with an epilog of the subsequent careers and lives of those closest to him.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an alltime admirerer of the music of George Gershwin, this book was just wonderful. I have read other books on Gershwin, but the detail and directness in the writing is just exceptional. It is also part of the history of American theatre in the early 20th century. Wonderful photos. Highly reccomend this book to anyone who is interested in Broadway & concert music.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a tightly written and excellent new short biography which uses the correspondence of Gershwin and Kay Swift to bring new insights to a crowded biographical subject. If you have read other works of the life of Mr. Gershwin, you still will learn some new details about his busy and incredibly musically inspired life. Like many great writers of music, it is like he was born to compose and perform. The newly emerged details regarding his last illness and untimely death are almost heart wrenching. If you want to learn about George Gershwin the man, this is a very fine biography to start your walk with George Gershwin.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The last few chapters of this book are really touching and well-written. There is much that is left out in terms of George's death but the author points to some possibilities. It left me wanting to know more about the cast of characters and what kind of (dysfunctional) relationships must have been going on for George's health to be so easily cast aside as emotional not physical. And, once some of these ideas were stoked by this book, it left me wishing the author could have been better at alluding to these strange dynamics throughout the book. I guess that's the real challenge with biography, you can't get too creative... and out of respect for the Gershwins... But, what a tragedy to lose George at such a young age!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The best biography I read. Not hagiographic, free, independent of the Gershwin trustees. A must.
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