George Gershwin’s mother was worried that he was on his way to becoming a juvenile delinquent, so she bought a piano for the family. Astounding everyone with his aptitude, George became one of the most famous composers in America, with an eclectic writing talent that spanned the gamut from popular tunes like “Swanee” to the gorgeous opera “Porgy and Bess.”
His specialty was breaking down the barriers of existing genres to create new ones. Perhaps his greatest “fusion” achievement was “Rhapsody in Blue,” a serious orchestral work that incorporated the wail of the clarinet and the squawk of taxi horns. (as described by Ron Cowen in The Washington Post, here.)
Gershwin reported to his first biographer that he composed Rhapsody in Blue hastily: “”It was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattle-ty bang that is often so stimulating to a composer…. I frequently hear music in the very heart of noise. And then I suddenly heard—and even saw on paper—the complete construction of the rhapsody from beginning to end…. I hear it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America—of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness.” (Cowen citing Isaac Goldberg’s biography)
Unfortunately, Gershwin died young – at age 38 – of a brain tumor, in 1937. His music can still be heard, however, not only in recordings by myriad artists, but on CDs that feature Gershwin himself playing. You can check some of them out here. You can also listen to him playing “Rhapsody in Blue” via youtube.