Nicknamed "the Jeweler" for his exquisite lyrics, Ira Gershwin (1896-1983), music laureate of the Jazz Age, was born Israel Gershowitz on this day in New York.
"The song is the important thing," he said. "Not the words or music as separate entities."
A literate and passionate reader and writer from childhood, he was best known for his magical collaborations with composer brother George.
The Gershwin songs have become timeless standards for Broadway and Hollywood; classics for Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, and others. Many consider Porgy and Bess (1935) to be the finest American opera.
"Ira," said a close friend, "is defter with words than anyone I know--and he hasn't got a bad one for anybody."
"'S wonderful! 'S marvelous-- You should care for me!" Ira wrote, the first songwriter awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Of Thee I Sing in 1932.
To preserve their collection of classics, the gifted lyricist established the Gershwin Archive at the Library of Congress. The priceless items included the autograph manuscripts of the major Gershwin scores.
"Good lyrics," he explained, "should be simple, colloquial, rhymed conversational lines."
"Embrace me, my sweet embraceable you."