Tuesday, September 29, 2015

George Gershwin Music For Lee Kuan Yew: 1967

PM Lee Hsien Loong in a message read out at a private memorial service in New York City for the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew on Thursday: 24th September 2015, revealed that one souvenir his father brought home from his trip to the U.S. in 1967 was a gift from former President Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ). 

The gifts were a portable turntable with vinyl Long Play records of George Gershwin's music.  This collection would include Rhapsody in Blue a song that brought the composer immediate fame and the very popular, *An American in Paris.  
In his speech PM LHL went on to say, "I am not sure we made much of this sample of American technology and culture at the time, but looking back, that gift symbolised America's spirit of dynamism, spontaneity generosity and warmth - the American values that my father greatly admired all these years."

It is true of George Gershwin because when the American people heard his music for the first time, they believed it captured the voice of modern American culture and were enthralled with his compositions.  
Starting at 18 years of age, Gershwin wrote more than 500 melodies for the next 20 years which included an opera, Porgy and Bess.  Musical plays were very popular in the 1920's and 1930's and his music was first performed in theatres in New York City.

I first heard Gershwin as a child in the 1950's and remember listening to many of his compositions over the radio.  The music spanned both popular and classical genres so it was natural that I learnt the same.
Some of his well-known pieces include: I Got Rhythm, Someone To Watch Over Me, Embraceable You, Swanee, S'Wonderful, The Man I Love, I'll Build A Stairway To Paradise, I've Got A Crush On You, Somebody Loves Me and the list goes on. One of his most famous was, Summertime from the opera.
Gershwin's songs swarmed the hit parade charts and dozens of singers and musicians had recorded them. The outstanding list include personalities like: Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, Louis Armstrong, Dean Martin, Al Jolson, Bobby Darin, Bing Crosby, Janis Joplin, John Coltrane, Mel Tormé, Billie Holiday, Yehudi Menuhin and group The Moody Blues.

Then there's Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Sam Cooke, Diana Ross, Neil Sedaka, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock,  Madonna, Judy Garland, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, Natalie Cole, Nina Simone, Adam Faith, Kate Bush, Sting, Amy Winehouse, Doris Day, Chet Atkins and many others.

Let's look at these figures. Born at the end of 1898, George Gershwin passed away in the middle of 1937 at the young age of 38. His songs are still being recorded in the 21st Century, more than 100 years later.  

Symbolically these Gershwin gifts were appropriate for a statesman like LKY since they encompassed the spirit of dynamism and spontaneity.  Both personalities BTW were born in September, GG on the 26th and LKY on the 16th. 
*Musical is currently on Broadway now. Wow!
Information about:
1. LHL speech: ST/A40/Opinion/26.09.2015.
2. George Gershwin: Internet.
Images: Blog background cartoon by Al Hirschfeld and Google.
Ella Fitzgerald sings George Gershwin's Summertime Video by bessjazz.



Hi Andy,
Ive loved Gershwin's music since i was a boy. And I've conducted Rhapsody in Blue four times.


Thanks Andrew! I always enjoy Gershwin, but knew little about him. Tanks for the info, it was very educational!

JOHNNY YEO said...

Hi Andrew, thank you for sharing about this side of PM Lee that I did not know about. I also enjoy Gershwin music. Music is indeed an international language which expresses the very emotion in all of us. I enjoy all types of music. :-)


All time classic favourite.


Thanks for this information. Great to note that LKY had an interest in music too. I know his wife's favourite n it's QUE SERA SERA! Cheers.


That's for sure Andy. SUMMERTIME is n have been a classic. Sung in various styleS n interpretation. It is n wilL be one of the most beautiful songs ever written. I don't know Gershwin but I've heard, love n played the song SUMMERTIME.


Just listened to RHAPSODY IN BLUE over You Tube. Very nice, dynamic, warm, enjoyable...

Yes listened to SUMMERTIME via your link by Ella Fitzg. Very touching n deph of feeling in the song. Will listen thru better speakers later!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Good afternoon everyone. Again many thanks for the comments. They all came within the morning and they are very positive ones too. I'm glad that many readers are familiar with George Gershwin and while some are not, I am happy to be instrumental in introducing the great American composer. He went back a long, long way. I was a child then.

Glad you all enjoy the SUMMERTIME You Tube insert which I hope will not be deleted by the people who posted it. I've had many of these videos taken away because they refuse to share them. But I'm grateful to those who do and these people are in the majority.

If you check under the TOP TEN WEEKLY POSTING LIST on the right side-bar this one is already at number 5 within the morning. it is very encouraging.

Please tell your friends if you enjoy the blog and send them the connection.

Namekuseijin Br said...

doesn't anyone else get the Tom & Jerry connection? Back in the 40's cartoons and jazz were all the rage. T&J had a very jazzy and classy soundtrack and once I finally listened to Rhapsody I knew where most of it came from, straight from the source, about 14 years after Gershwin composed it.

(A You Tube Comment about RHAPSODY IN BLUE).

Akairu Kamigamo said...

I get bullied for my tastes but I don't care! This stuff is awesome! Usually nowadays people's favorite songs are by One Direction or Taylor Swift but my favorite song is this. I can't think of the ignorant people who call this trash. One Direction songs aren't appealing to me actually; I'm more into Japanese songs than American...

You Tube: RHAPSODY...

Anonymous said...

This is the first article i read about George Gershwin and his song. Pls keep on sharing as it benefits me and the younger generation too.


Thanks to DENYSE TESSENSOHN for sharing this posting on her FB, TAN SOO KHOON, FOO JONG FOOK, AUDIE NG for FB thumbs up.


Dear Andy,

Thank you for sharing the good information of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew being presented, with George Gershwin’s music, by US President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967.

Our late great leader was a man of dedication to the country. We probably could say that he is one of the rarest leaders of the world who truly dedicated an entire life, working relentless, for the country.

Singapore’s magnitude of development, from slums to skyscrapers, would not have been today without him!

I agree he hardly had time for music but for the country he will put all his time and make it right!

His stoicism, foresight and contributions to the country brings Singapore to the world today, something we all proud of and appreciate it very much.

Best Regards

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Again thanks to anonymous, Facebook Friends and Ronnie See for comments and thumbs-up. I hope more of you will write in to give your views because they should make interesting reading.

Victor said...

I have heard Summertime before but didn't know that this wonderful song is from George Gershwin. Thanks for enlightening me, Andy.


Hi Andy

With artists such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and many other doing covers shows he was indeed a great composer.

Your choice of Summertime was a real classic, you can still hear it played occasionally in different genre at our local music scene.

I personally like I've Got Rhythm version by Dorothy Dandridge and Embraceable You by Nat King Cole, a good combination.

A collector's piece by President LBJ, thanks.

Daniel Chua said...

Dear Mr Andy Young,

I'm interested to ask about the source for your LKY-LBJ photograph, which seems suitable for use as a cover page for my forthcoming book. I wonder if you could point me to where I can get permission to use it. Thank you.

All the best,
Daniel Chua

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Daniel,
I got it off Google Images. Just key in "Lee Kuan Yew and Lyndon B. Johnson" and you may be able to get the picture. But it may be copyright property.

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