Jerome Kern

On this date in 1885, songwriter Jerome Kern was born in New York City to Fanny and Henry Kern, a German-born immigrant and an American-born Bohemian. Although they both had been raised Jewish, "[t]heir marriage at Temple Emanu-El was the last religious function in either of their lives," writes Kern biographer Michael Freedland. They gave their son no religious training. For Kern, "[h]is religion was his music and his lifestyle. . ." (Freedland) Jerome began playing the piano at a young age, showing musical talent. He left high school after his junior year, studied at the New York College of Music, then at the Heidelberg University in Germany. At the age of 20 in 1905, Kern composed his first hit song and in 1912 wrote his first Broadway score. The Broadway musical, "Showboat" (1927), broke ground by integrating music with story. Due to Kern's remarkable musical influence, he became known as "father of the American musical theatre." Kern, a composer who worked with a variety of lyricists, eventually paired up with lyricist Dorothy Fields. They won the 1936 Academy Award for Best Song with "The Way You Look Tonight" from the movie "Swing Time." In 1941, he and Oscar Hammerstein won an Oscar for best song for "The Last Time I Saw Paris," from the film "Lady Be Good." During his career, he wrote close to 700 songs and more than 100 complete scores for both shows and films. Kern classics include: "They Didn't Believe Me," "Look for the Silver Lining," "Old Man River," "Can't Help Lovin' That Man," "Make Believe," "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "I Won't Dance," "A Fine Romance," "The Way You Look Tonight," and "All the Things You Are." While beginning work on a project initiated by Dorothy Fields, the musical "Annie Get Your Gun", Kern had a sudden stroke and died a few days later. He was 60 years old. D. 1945

“Life is to be enjoyed.”

—Jerome Kern's motto. Jerome Kern, A Biography, by Michael Freedland

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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