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Ira Gershwin: The Art of the Lyricist First Edition Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195082999
ISBN-10: 0195082990
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Few lyricists have matched Ira Gershwin's ability to stretch "I love you" ingeniously throughout 32 bars of music. Despite his brilliant verses, his contributions to popular song have been somewhat underrated compared to the accolades bestowed upon his brother and collaborator, George. Furia's cogent critical biography is an important study of Ira's career that argues how important his work was in shaping what has become the quintessentially American language. He proceeds through detailed analyses of Gershwin hits; for example, Furia parses "The Man I Love" --in which the tension, he maintains, is strengthened by choosing "I love" instead of "I'll love" --to show how Ira managed to "weave witty sentiments out of the simplest of vernacular phrases." Furia also recounts the Gershwin brothers' process of collaboration and champions the underperformed Ira Gershwin^-Kurt Weill production, Lady in the Dark. Stories of glamorous Broadway musicals and MGM movie extravaganzas also inform the book. Moreover, Furia looks at Ira's retiring personality, which made him satisfied throughout his life with letting the legends around him take center stage. Aaron Cohen

Review

"For those with an abiding interest in musicals and pop music, this new book is a real gift.... This is the first real tribute to Ira. It's well-deserved and illuminating."--Minneapolis Star Tribune

"A tender protrait of a man who was slow to find his calling, but who, once plugged in, became a sophisticated wit who wrote deceptively simple lyrics for a brother he worshiped."--Time Out New York

"Ira Gershwin is predominantly a lyrical biography of 'the other Gershwin,' as Ira was unfairly called. And nobody understands the rhetoric of a song better than Furia."--The Chicago Tribune

"Mr. Furia presents a clear, focused, highly readable study of Gershwin's lyrics in all their deceptive simplicity.... Mr. Furia's book is a sharp and concise look at the reasons Gershwin's songs have endured."--The New York Times Book Review

"Furia's cogent critical biography is an important study of Ira's career that argues how important his work was in shaping what has become the quintessentially American language."--Booklist

"In an age when much of modern culture seems a matter of vulgarians entertaining barbarians, it is refreshing, even morally so, to be reminded of a period during which popular music was characterized by lushly beautiful melodies and literate, sophisticated and emotionally rational lyrics. The modern audience is free to prefer what it wishes, but it has no sensible right to consider what it prefers superior to that which it disdains. Or, to put the matter more simply, 'Rhapsody in Blue' is better than 'Switchblade Baby, I'm Gonna Stab You Tonight.' Ira Gershwin was a true master of the art of lyric writing, and Mr. Furia has done him great and insightful justice."--Steve Allen
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (January 25, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195082990
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195082999
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,517,208 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By M. Allen Greenbaum HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
When "Girl Crazy," the musical that introduced such endurable songs as "I Got Rhythm," "Embraceable You," and "But Not for Me," opened in month, 1932, composer George presented lyricist Ira with a bracelet inscribed "George, the Music; Ira, the Words." The collaboration of the two brothers' collaboration produced some of the best standards and the starting point of much of the best jazz in years to come.
This book tells the musical history of Ira, Nicknamed "the Jeweler" because of his meticulous fitting of words to music, or as he put it, the construction of a music/word mosaic, the sometimes under-appreciated Gershwin wrote the clever, ironic, and always intelligent word to Gershwin tunes as well as collaborations with (Harburg, Kern, Arlen, Weill, Wodehouse, Bolton, and Duke).
As in his brilliant "Poets of Tin Pan Alley," Furia's masterfully dissects the lyricist's craft, explaining such techniques as pseudo rhymes, internal rhymes, alliteration and assonance, allusions and tone. He examines the importance of a song's "singability." Furia, as in `Poets' traces the history of the theatre song as a stand-alone number (a la Ziegfried Follies) to its height as an integral "character" that advances the show's plot (first accomplished in "Showboat" and "Oklahoma." Finally, he shows how Ira Gershwin's style (and often his skill) was different from other lyricists of the Golden Age.
The problem is that there is a dearth of original research, especially about Ira's latter non-writing years. I wonder why the author did not interview Michael Feinstein, who befriended Gershwin in the latter year, and here receives a one paragraph cite on the next to the last page. Most of the references on the latter years come from two books alone.
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Format: Hardcover
Ira Gershwin, often seen as the non-dazzler of the remarkable Gershwin brothers, was called "the jeweller" by his peers because of his meticulously crafted lyrics. And this duality of the famed songwriter makes Philip Furia's book especially intriguing. How Ira wrote the songs, how he saw himself, and the famed body of music he created is fascinating reading. But right here, let's just look at one aspect -- the close, loving relationship between the two brothers, Ira and George, the successful collaboration that produced a series of sparkling, sophisticated hit songs for Broadway and Hollywood all throughout the 1920's and 1930's. Ira was the older brother, shy and modest. He idolized the more dashing and outgoing George, and like many others, recognized his musical genius. Once they permanently joined professional forces in 1924, they were unbeatable, but that came after Ira's early career writing light verse and then song lyrics under the name, Arthur Francis. From the first Ira-George hit, "The Man I Love," they meshed perfectly, George's touching and intricate melody married to Ira's deceptively simple and straightforward lyric, "Someday he'll come along..." Everyone recognized the spark the two ignited in their songs. Tunes as unusual and catchy as, Fascinating Rhythm" demanded a rhyme scheme that would place accents in the most effective points. Even when George joined DuBose Heyward to write "Porgy and Bess," Ira had a role in polishing some lyrics, and writing the straightforward, colloquial lyrics for the character of Sportin' Life, such as, "It Ain't Necessarily So." Ira occasionally collaborated with other composers, like Vernon Duke and "Yip" Harburg.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
I've not felt strongly enough about a book or author to submit a review before, but as a songwriter myself, I can not praise Mr. Furia's books enough. He follows the development of the lyrist or songwriter as an artist first, before their celebrity, etc. He shows how their styles changed with time and experience. I have read two of his books. I'm starting a third, and I've bought copies for my friends. I will endeavor to read every songwriter book he produces. He lets you look inside the art of the artist, yet it still reads like a story. I'd give all of his books ten stars. Thank you Mr. Furia, for a wonderful read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A very knowledgeable book by someone who conveys not only a sound analysis of Ira Gershwin's life, but also a detailed review of his lyrical accomplishments, with many selections of his work included.
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