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SIMULTANEOUS EAST AND WEST-COAST funerals took place on a muggy July afternoon in 1937 Politicians artists entertainers and musicians gathered to mourn what was perhaps the greatest blow to American music in history the unexpected and untimely death of George Gershwin at 38 Whether or not Gershwin was the greatest American composer will always be debated but beyond doubt he was a most quintessential American composer An unlikely musical genius he was a high-school dropout who by his own admission was far more interested in roller skating and cutting school - and making fun of kids who played instruments - than in books or music George Gershwins story is the stuff of American romantic folklore Unlikely Beginnings He was Morris and Rose Gershwins second son born in Brooklyn New York September 26 1898 As a child George was usually in some kind of trouble He despised reading and studying and instead spent his time outdoors playing and getting into fights His family purchased a second-hand piano for elder son Ira when George was 12 years old but it was George not Ira who began playing songs by ear immediately prompting the family to invest in lessons Piano teacher Charles Hambitzer took Georges tuition free and taught him the classics composers such as Chopin Liszt and Debussy Gershwin also attended concerts voraciously but while his passion for music grew his interest in school did not His grades continued to fall until at 15 George dropped out of high school and took a job with Jerome H Remick Company a music-publishing firm on Tin Pan Alley for 15 a week Early Career At Remick George worked as a song plugger promoting and selling the companys songs by playing them for potential performers Gershwin also began to compose songs during this time though his employer discouraged his writing Regardless his first song was published - by
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