From the Library: Arlen, Gershwin and More

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by Elrik Merlin on Monday, 22 February, 2010

Today the spotlight falls primarily on the music of the 30s and 40s, and we are featuring two particular composers: Harold Arlen and George Gershwin, along with some of the people they collaborated with and some later music linked to them in some way.

The name Harold Arlen (left) may not bring a great deal to mind, here in the second decade of the 21st century, but mention the names of a few of the songs he wrote or co-wrote and you’ll immediately realise we’re talking about a unique and talented musician. Born in Buffalo, NY, in 1905, he wrote his forst well-known song, Get Happy, in 1929. With Ted Koehler, he wrote Stormy Weather in 1933; the same year he wrote It’s Only A Paper Moon with E Y Harburg and Billy Rose. Then in 1938 he was hired by MGM to write the songs for the film version of The Wizard of Oz.

He later collaborated with Johnny Mercer on several hits, including Accentiate the Positive and That Old Black Magic. In 1954 he collaborated with Ira Gershwin, writing the song The Man That Got Away for the musical A Star Is Born. Arlen was a big favourite with jazz musicians, and we’ll hear some jazz interpretations of his compositions today.

George Gershwin (right) was born in 1898 and was both a popular and classical music composer and pianist. Many of his songs and pieces are jazz and popular standards today. His first song was published in 1916, when he was only 17. The same year he started working for the Aeolian Company and recorded a great many rolls for these instruments and for reproducing pianos. Gershwin’s first major classical work, Rhapsody in Blue, was written in 1924 and orchestrated by Ferde Grofe. While in Paris he wrote An American In Paris, which also became popular. He wrote the “folk opera” Porgy and Bess in 1935. He sadly died of a brain tumour at the early age of 38.

Today’s programme includes a great many pieces by these two composers, along with some of the hits of the 30s and 40s. We’ll also hear other material from some of the names already mentioned, including Judy Garland and Johnny Mercer — and many more great songs and tunes.

From the Library is produced by Radio Riel in conjunction with the Alexandrian Free Library Consortium of Second Life. You can listen to the programme now at — or click here to link straight to your player if your browser is set up to do so. Today’s programme is presented by Elrik Merlin.

For more information on the Alexandrian Free Library, current exhibits and the work of Consortium members in general, please visit the Alexandrian Free Library website, or one of their branches in-world.


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