An interview with Deena Rosenberg, author of “Fascinating Rhythm: The Collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin” and Michael Strunsky, nephew of Ira Gershwin, recorded August 14, 1992, hosted by Richard Wolinsky with guest host Alex Davis.
In 1992, as part of the KPFA Morning Concert series, Richard Wolinsky interviewed both Deena Rosenberg and Michael Strunsky, co-hosted with San Francisco concert pianist Alex Davis, who prepared excerpts of Gershwin’s work for the show.
A full-scale radio documentary was planned following the program, and a handful of interviews recorded before the project was abandoned. One of those interviews, with Michael Strunsky’s father, English Strunsky, was aired for the first time on August 29, 2016, and the complete one-hour version was uploaded as a Radio Wolinsky podcast.
But the project began with this program, originally a live two-hour radio broadcast featuring songs and original recordings from the Gershwin archive. For copyright reasons, outside of short segments performed by Alex Davis, those recordings have been removed. Some of the dialogue has been tightened, but the result is what was heard from the KPFA studios that morning.
George Gershwin was born in 1898 and his brother Ira two years earlier. At the age of 15 he took a job as a song-plugger, playing other people’s songs on a piano for Remick Music Publisher for the sale of their sheet music. His first composed song was published when he was 17, and at 21 he scored his first big hit, Swanee. But it wasn’t until 1924 when he teamed up with his brother Ira as lyricist that George Gershwin became, what we might call a superstar, which he remained until his untimely death from a brain tumor in 1937. Ira Gershwin, who went on to work with other composers until he retired in the early 1960s, died in 1983.
Through a search, songs from the various shows mentioned in this interview, as well as individual songs, can be found on You Tube, in particular George Gershwin’s performance of Variations on I Got Rhythm from his radio broadcast, and Oscar Levant’s recording of the Second Rhapsody.
Digitized and remastered in 2018 by Richard Wolinsky.