George Gershwin lived between September 26, 1898 and July 11, 1937. He is considered to be a twentieth century composer.
If you hate homework but like roller skating, you have something in common with American composer George Gershwin. Born in Brooklyn, New York to Russian immigrant parents, George loved to play street hockey, ‘cat’, and punch ball. He didn’t even have an interest in music until his family got him a piano when he was twelve. Nine years later he had his first hit, “Swanee”, with lyrics written by Irving Caesar. No one else in the Gershwin family was musical, but George was fascinated by music. When he heard a schoolmate play the violin, George struck up a friendship with the boy who introduced him to the world of concert music.
Gershwin’s American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue (featured in Disney’s newly released Fantasia 2000) proved that jazz was powerful enough to combine will with symphonic music. Gershwin was only 26 years old at the time when he composed Rhapsody in Blue. No matter how you hear it, “Rhapsody in Blue” will remain the signature of one of the most influential of composers, songwriters and pianists in American music history.
His play Porgy and Bess has been produced as both a film and an opera.
• 1888 ~ Friedrich Schorr, Hungarian bass-baritone
• 1917 ~ Laurindo Almeida, Grammy Award-winning composer, musician, guitarist
• 1919 ~ Marge Champion (Marjorie Belcher), Dancer, actress, choreographer with Gower Champion, model for animated Snow White
• 1924 ~ Theatregoers heard the song Indian Love Call for the first time in the operetta Rose Marie, which opened in New York City.
• 1927 ~ Sophie Tucker recorded her signature song, Some of These Days, for Columbia Records.
• 1931 ~ The radio show 15 Minutes with Bing Crosby debuted on CBS. The singer became a super-hot property after the debut.
• 1936 ~ David Blaki, British composer
• 1939 ~ Sam Gooden, Singer with Roosters
• 1940 ~ Jimmy Clanton, Singer, songwriter, toured with Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars
• 1943 ~ Rosalind Ashford, Singer with Martha and the Vandellas
• 1946 ~ Marty Grebb, Musician, keyboards with The Buckinghams
• 1957 ~ Steve Porcaro, Keyboards, singer with Toto
• 1958 ~ Fritz McIntyre, Keyboards with Simply Red
• 1965 ~ The Beatles received a gold record for their single Help!, from the movie of the same name.
• 1997 ~ Sir Rudolf Bing died. He was an Austrian-born opera impresario who worked in Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, most notably being General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City from 1950 to 1972.
• 2000 ~ Elvera Sanchez Davis, a tap dancer and the mother of Sammy Davis, Jr., died at the age of 95. Known as Baby Sanchez, Davis began performing at 16 in the chorus line at the Lafayette Theater in Harlem. She continued her career into the early 1940s, dancing for six years in the chorus line at the Apollo Theatre. In 1923, performing in a touring show called “Holiday in Dixie”, she met and married Sammy Davis Sr., also a dancer in the show. Their son was born in 1925. He became a tap-dance prodigy by age 10, trained and brought up by his father after his parents separated. Mrs. Davis retired when the Apollo disbanded its dance chorus, though she danced informally into her 90s. She also performed in touring revues and in films including Carl Micheaux’s 1936 “Swing”. Davis continued to be involved with tap dance until her death, serving from 1989 as an adviser to the New York Committee to Celebrate National Tap Dance Day.
Sammy Davis, Jr. died in 1990 at the age of 64.
• 2001 ~ Troy Donahue died at the age of 65. He was a matinee idol who climbed to stardom in the 1950s with his role in “A Summer Place.”
• 2001 ~ Jazz saxophonist Jay Migliori, who worked with musicians and singers ranging from
Frank Zappa to Frank Sinatra, died of colon cancer. He was 70.
Migliori, who was also a founding member of the Grammy-winning jazz group Supersax, played on some 4,000 recordings during his career. Although he described his own style as “modern acoustic jazz with roots in bebop,” he was equally comfortable working with country stars like Glen Campbell, a wide variety of rock musicians including Zappa and the Four Seasons and pop stars as varied as Dean Martin and Celine Dion. He performed with more than two dozen bands over the years, including those led by Miles Davis, Stan Kenton, Terry Gibbs and Maynard Ferguson. In 1971, he joined Supersax, an ensemble built around a five-saxophone section that specialized in orchestrated Charlie Parker solos. He also recorded several albums of his own, including “Jazz in Transition” and “Smile.”
• 2006 ~ [Jean-Josephat] Clermont Pépin, Canadian pianist and composer (Implosion Symphony), died at the age of 80
Today we listen to Hot Cross Buns. “Hot Cross Buns” is an English language nursery rhyme, Easter song, and street cry referring to the spiced English bun known as a hot cross bun, which is associated with the end of Lent and is eaten on Good Friday in various countries.
On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. This declaration announced to the world that the 13 colonies would no longer be held by British rule. Today Americans celebrate by the flying of a flag, cooking at home (usually a cookout, also known as a barbecue), and watching a brilliant fireworks display.
• 1826 ~ Stephen Foster, American composer of songs
More information about Foster
• 1832 ~ It was on this day that America was sung in public for the first time — at the Park Street Church in Boston, MA. Dr. Samuel Francis Smith wrote the words, borrowing the tune from a German songbook. Ironically, and unknown to Dr. Smith at the time, the melody is the same as the British national anthem.
• 1895 ~ America the Beautiful, the famous song often touted as the true U.S. national anthem, was originally a poem written by Katherine Lee Bates. The Wellesley College professor’s poem was first published this day in the Congregationalist, a church newspaper.
• 1898 ~ Michael Aaron, Piano Educator
• 1900 ~ Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, American jazz trumpeter, singer and bandleader Read quotes by and about Armstrong
More information about Armstrong
• 1902 ~ George Murphy, American politician (US Senator, California), actor and dancer (MGM Parade)
• 1909 ~ Alec Templeton, Pianist
• 1911 ~ Mitch Miller, American conductor, oboist, record company executive, producer, arranger for the Sing Along with Mitch LPs and TV show
• 1937 ~ Ray Pillow, Singer
• 1938 ~ Bill Withers, Grammy Award-winning songwriter, singer
• 1942 ~ The Irving Berlin musical, This is the Army, opened at New York’s Broadway Theatre. Net profits of the show were $780,000.
• 1943 ~ Al ‘Blind Owl’ Wilson, Musician, guitarist, harmonica, singer with Canned Heat
• 1943 ~ The Rhythm Boys, Bing Crosby, Al Rinker and Harry Barris, were reunited for the first time since the 1930s on Paul Whiteman Presents on NBC radio.
• 1948 ~ Jeremy Spencer, Musician, guitarist with Fleetwood Mac
• 1955 ~ John Waite, Singer
• 1958 ~ Kirk Pengily, Rock Musician
• 1985 ~ A crowd, estimated at one million, gathered in Philadelphia to celebrate the 209th anniversary of America’s independence. The Beach Boys were joined by Mr. T. on drums to really add some fireworks to the festivities. The Oak Ridge Boys, Joan Jett and Jimmy Page joined in the celebration.
• 1999 ~ Ronny Graham passed away
• 2001 ~ Maceo Anderson, a tap dancer and founding member of the Four Step Brothers, died in Los Angeles at the age of 90. The group tap-danced all over the world, performing for the queen of England and the emperor of Japan. The Four Step Brothers also performed at Radio City Music Hall. The group started as a trio. In the mid-1920s, the group performed at the Cotton Club with Duke Ellington, who wrote The Mystery Song for them. Anderson began dancing as a child in the South. When he was six, he and his mother moved to a basement apartment in Harlem. He taught tap dance at his own school in Las Vegas and across the country until 1999.
Today is a great day for patriotic music and there’s nothing better than John Philip Sousa’sStars and Stripes Forever
A part of every Fourth of July program at the Esplanade in Boston involves a giant American flag unfurling from the ceiling during the Stars and Stripes. Can you find it?
Piano arrangement by Vladimir Horowitz:
With Horowitz playing:
The Muppets version of Stars and Stripes forever
The animated graphical score:
The Band of the Grenadier Guards
The same melody can be heard with these words:
John Philip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever is never part of a regular circus program. It is reserved for emergency use – sometimes called the “Disaster March”. If a major problem happens — an animal gets loose, a high wind threatens the tent, or a fire breaks out — the band plays the march as a warning signal to every worker on the circus lot that something is wrong.
Find piano arrangements of the Stars and Stripes Forever in Movement 2
Closing out today, enjoy The Year 1812, Festival Overture in E♭ major, Op. 49, popularly known as the 1812 Overture by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from Great Britain.
Independence Day fireworks are often accompanied by patriotic songs such as the national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner”, “God Bless America”, “America the Beautiful”, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”, “This Land Is Your Land”, “Stars and Stripes Forever”, and, regionally, “Yankee Doodle” in northeastern states and “Dixie” in southern states. Some of the lyrics recall images of the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812.
A bit of audio for your listening pleasure, as played by Vladimir Horowitz…