George Gershwin

On this date in 1898, composer George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn, New York. Of the three boys in the family, only Ira, later George's lyricist, was subjected to a bar mitzvah. "This religious milestone apparently meant little to Ira himself. The fact that Rose and Morris never imposed it upon George and Arthur means that, by the time they became teenagers, the family had left their East European Jewish origins behind and were living a secularized existence in New York's cosmopolitan melting pot. . . . Rose made sure the living room curtains were drawn closed on the eve of sabbaths or festivals, so that her Jewish neighbors would be unaware she had not lit the ceremonial candles," according to Rodney Greenberg, in his biography, George Gershwin. Gershwin's named sources of "inspiration" were not gods or prophets but two other nonbelieving songwriters: Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern, according to biographer Edward Jablonski, Gershwin: A Biography. Self-taught as a piano-player, Gershwin began writing songs and musicals as a teenager, quickly advancing from Tin Pan Alley to Broadway musicals. Considered by many to be America's greatest song composer, Gershwin wrote memorable standard after standard, including: "Lady, be Good!" "Strike Up the Band," "Funny Face," "The Man I Love," "Embraceable You," "Somebody Loves Me" and "They Can't Take That Away from Me." His more serious work: Rhapsody in Blue (1924), Piano Concerto in F (1925), Porgy & Bess (1934-5), and Three Preludes (1926). At the height of his career, the ambitious 38-year-old, who had been sent to see a psychiatrist after complaining of debilitating headaches, collapsed from an undiagnosed brain tumor and tragically died during surgery. D.1937.

It Ain't Necessarily So

It ain't necessarily so, (repeat)
De t'ings dat yo' li'ble
To read in de Bible,
It ain't necessarily so.

Li'l David was small, but oh my! (rpt)
He fought big Goliath
Who lay down an' dieth!
Li'l David was small, but oh my!

Oh, Jonah, he lived in de whale, (rpt)
Fo' he made his home in
Dat fish's abdomen.
Oh, Jonah, he lived in de whale.

Li'l Moses was found in a stream, (rpt)
He floated on water
Till Ole Pharaoh's daughter
She fished him, she says, from that stream.

It ain't necessarily so, (rpt)
Dey tell all you chillun
De debble's a villun,
But 'tain't necessarily so.

To get into Hebben don' snap for a sebben!
Live clean! Don' have no fault.
Oh, I takes dat gospel
Whenever it's poss'ble,
But wid a grain of salt.

Methus'lah lived nine hundred years,
But who calls dat livin'
When no gal'll give in
To no man what's nine hundred years?

I'm preachin' dis sermon to show,
It ain't nessa, ain't nessa,
ain't nessa, ain't nessa,
Ain't necessarily so.

—-Music by George Gershwin. Lyrics by Ira Gershwin. Copyright 1935 by Gershwin Publishing Co.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; Photo by Everett Collection /

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