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Notes: Gershwin made the piano rolls (for player piano) between and Altogether he played for rolls. by George Gershwin (music) and Irving Caesar (lyrics) strummin’ soft and low: I know that you: Yearn for me too: Swanee You’re calling me. Swanee: George Gershwin: Early career and influences: performed the Gershwin song “Swanee” in the musical Sinbad; it became an enormous success .

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Pattie Austin recorded “Swanee” on her album Avant Gershwin. The Song is Ended: Songwriters and American Music, Oxford University Press, Easton Studio Press, Doubleday, paper-bound Ed.

The idea for doing this virtually unheard of combination of song styles in concert was proposed to Gauthier by Carl Van Vechten American, writer, music critic, and photographer when she asked him for suggestions for her upcoming recital. When Van Vechten mentioned American songs her response was tepid, but when he “particularized” by making a reference to the songs as “Jazz,” her interest picked up; and when Maurice Ravel saw her in Paris and made a similar proposal, she accepted the concept.

On asking Van Vecten who might accompany her for the American songs portion of her program, he suggested Gershwin. So along with Gershwin’s songs “Swanee,” ” Stairway to the Stars ” and “Innocent Ingenue Baby” receiving their debut on a classical stage, so did Gershwin himself.

Swanee – Wikisource, the free online library

Reviewers were generally unfriendly to the mixing of the “classical” and “jazz” elements. Deems Taylor of the New York World was the exception, writing “the audience was as much fun to watch as the songs were to hear, for it began by being slightly patronizing and ended by surrendering completely to the alluring rhythms of our own folk music. Gauthier’s recital was the precursor to another concert in Aeolian Hall the following year, an event that changed America’s attitude toward jazz forever because it swsnee the debut of Rhapsody in Bluewith Gershwin again at the piano.

Edward Jablonski and Lawrence D. Richard Rodgers wrote the music for ” My Heart Stood Still ” gershwinn a single afternoon and Bali Ha’i “while his other dinner guests were finishing their coffee. Irving Caesar was well known for writing his lyrics quickly as well as telling anybody who would listen how quickly he wrote them.

Swanee (Gershwin, George)

He told Max Wilk, ” I can write very fast when it hits me. Sometimes lousy, sure, but always fast. What the hell, Gershwin and I wrote ‘Swanee’ in about eleven minutes flat!

Gershwin, on the other hand, recalled that it took them about an hour.

Caesar told Ian Whitcomb that it took slightly longer. In Whitcomb’s interview with the lyricistCaesar remembers that inwhen Gershwin was about nineteen and he was twenty-one, there was a big hit titled “Hindustan” by Oliver Wallace and Harold Weeks, which was a one-step dance number with a flavor of the far east that was a “raging” hit.

According to Gershwin biographer Edward Jablonski, they decided that instead of India, the lyric would be set in the still exotic but closer-to-home American South, and “by the time they arrived.

Once at the apartment, Gershwin sat down at the piano and played some of those modern chords he always had at the ready.

Gedshwin chordation was so interesting, so gershwiin and remarkable, and out of his chordation came the melodies” Kimball and Simonp. While writing “Swanee,” with George developing the melody at the piano, virtually simultaneously, Caesar elaborated on the lyrical idea set forth on the bus, keeping this up until the song was complete.

In this telling, Caesar claims, it was finished after fifteen minutes — leaving hershwin, perhaps, the time spent gershsin while on New York City public transportation. At the same time Gershwin and Cease were writing “Swanee” on one side of a room divider in the Gershwin apartment, George’s father was playing poker with his cronies on the other side — some of whom were complaining about the racket George and Irving were making.

But the song, once finished, won the card players over to the extent that Morris Gershwin, “playing a tissue wrapped comb,” gershqin his son and Caesar in what was perhaps the unofficial debut of “Swanee. Ironically, Caesar points out to Whitcomb, neither he nor George had ever been South, but so many popular songs evoked aspects of the mythic or perhaps more precisely mythological South that they found it hard to resist jumping on the bandwagon.

In fact some time after their song became famous, Caesar and Gershwin were taking the train to Florida and as they crossed the Georgia-Florida state line the Pullman conductor, who knew who they were, said, “Hey boys, there’s that river you wrote about. During the interview, Caesar sings the entire Caesar-Gerwhwin “Swanee” a cappella. He had heard and liked the song when Gershwin played it at a rehearsal for one of the Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic s” on the roof of the New Amsterdam theater while Gershwin and Caesar were performing it for some chorus girls.


This was, as Jablonski tells it, about a year after Gershwin and Caesar had written it. So “Swanee” was first heard that is after Gershwin’s father and his poker friends and some chorus girls gershwn a rehearsal gersuwin, by people at the opening of a spectacular new Broadway movie house. Nevertheless, sheet music sales were poor despite Caesar’s and Gershwin’s rather desparate attempts to stimulate sales by buying copies in the lobby and it was decided by the publisher that the song was not commercial enough to promote.

Caesar, who was devastated, continued to insist that it could be a commercial success and was proven correct in spades — but only after the right performer got egrshwin it. Gershwin attended a party for Jolson and, as was typical for him, gershwln his way to the piano and played and sangamong other songs, “Swanee. He wanted the song interpolated into Sinbadwhich within three days it was. And on January 8,”Joli” recorded it. From that point on, according to Caesar, the song “took off and never stopped.

He and Gershwin had known each other since their gerhswin having met at Remick’s music publishing house where George geshwin as a song plugger and general factotum starting in Bybefore undertaking “Swanee, “they had already collaborated gerwhwin several songs.

To this day, the song remains the greatest earner in the George Gershwin catalog, but more importantly, as Jablonski puts it, “Swanee”, though “it was “[Gershwin’s] most blatant Tin Pan Alley Song,” was also his ticket out of The Alley, because it raised his reputation enough to make him “ready for Broadway” Jablonski, p.

The song was a great hit in Britain and continental Europe.

When Gershwin disembarked from his ship in Southampton on his first visit to Great Britain, a customs officer recognized his name as being that of the composer of “Swanee. Every night everywhere ‘Swanee’ has been played for months and months with no sign of exhausting its popularity” Pollackgershin As a result, Gershwin was invited to London to write music for shows there.

Al Jolson sings “Swanee. Classical Composer Victor Dukelsky born gerrshwin Belarus, trained in Kiev Ukrainea friend of Prokofiev, and composer of a ballet for Diaghilev first heard “Swanee” in Constantinople and was so entranced by the song that upon coming to America, sought out Gershwin with whom he struck up a profound friendship.

Although Dukelsky continued his career as a classical composer, his association with Gershein led him to write popular songs of great and lasting value under the more American name Gershwin suggested for him — Vernon Duke Rimler, p. Walter Rimler George Gershwin: An Intimate Portrait Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, Howard Pollock suggests everyone concerned with the song knew they were just trying to capitalize on the success of Swanee,” but Gershwin was not happy going back toward Tin Pan Alley and, by extension, farther away from Broadway Pollack Alec Wilder does not have a lot of good things to say about “Swanee.

Wilder comments that “Swanee” precedes Gershwin’s starting point for writing theater songs, which comes with, ” I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise ” actual title “Stairway to Paradise” inseveral years after “Swanee. Wilder contends that it would be difficult to distinguish “Swanee” from any number of contemporaneous Tin Pan Alley sawnee later forgotten.

Nevertheless, Wilder still finds a mark of distinction in Gershwin’s composition, as if it would be impossible for him to write anything without one.

In “Swanee” it is a device “both melodically and harmonically beyond the limitations of an average writer” manifesting itself in a change within a single measure from the F minor key of the verse to a D natural and a B-flat major chord in its ninth measure before returning to the F minor in the tenth. This, says Wilder, occurs several times in the song, a foreshadow of the Gershwin to come Wilder, p.

George Gershwin “Swanee” Sheet Music in F Major – Download & Print – SKU: MN

His Life and Work Berkeley: Caesar, however, wanted to do the capitalizing by changing the setting to an American locale, namely Dixie with its exotic veneer of romance, “thus conflat[ing] two popular Tin Pan Alley tropes, Araby and Dixieland. Pollack also suggests that it was not just the popularity of the one-step “Hindustan” that inspired Gershwin and Caesar to gershqin their song. He also writes that both songs share a more modern quality in their “steely rhythmic drive,” even greater than that of Berlin’s ” Alexander’s Ragtime Band swanef from a decade earlier.

For Pollock, “Swanee’s” ties with Foster’s “Old Folks at Home,” and with minstrelsy in general place it an American musical tradition that in the early twentieth century looks back to Foster and others who celebrated the romanticism and sentimentality of the Old South but at the same time partakes of an American musical modernism, “through its relentless vigor” similar, in fact, to the andantino of Gershwin’s own prototypically modern Rhapsody in Blue.


In general support of this contention, Pollack quotes the composer himself, who expresses his desire that his song be seen as inclusive in its capacity to touch on widely diverse elements of American culture:.

George Gershwin – Swanee

I am happy to be told gesrhwin the romance of that land [the ‘Southland’] is felt in [“Swanee”], and that at the same time the spirit and energy of our United States is present. We are not all business or all romance, but a combination of the two, and real American music would represent these two characteristics which I tried to unite in “Swanee” and make represent the soul of this country.

Pollack concludes, that “‘Swanee,’ which probably more than any other song signaled the start of the Roaring Wsanee, also helped elucidate Gershwin’s self-identity as a ‘modern romantic'” Pollack, p.

Ruth Leon Gershwin London: Differently from Pollackmany commentators have made the point about “Swanee” being a Gershwin anomaly in that it was his first and really only hit, but was not a characteristic song for him, nor even a swwnee good one, having little to do with the ascendent reputation he gained as a songwriter over the course of his all too short life.

Ruth Leon, author of Gershwin a brief but often insightful biography illustrates the anomaly by making an unlikely comparison between Gershwin’s “Swanee” and Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns”: Both songs had little to do with the shows they appeared in, Gershwin’s being interpolated into Sinbad because Al Jolson, swanew star, having heard it played at a party, wanted to sing it; and Sondheim’s being written so the leading swaene of A Little Night Music would stop complaining that she didn’t have a solo.

Both songs became the only “hit” song written by either Gershwin or Sondheim; and both composers never wanting to think of themselves as pop songwriters still rose to the pinnacle of American songwriting, not only for their respective periods but, most likely, for all time. Leon also captures the historical and ethnic significance of “Swanee” that led to its becoming what we would now call a megahit:. Al Jolson and “Swanee” were a marriage made in heaven.

George and Irving’s song, with its mixture of sentimentality and gershwih sentiment, commercial schmaltz and musical chutzpah, was a perfect match for Jolson’s almost uncanny rapport with an audience that, in gershwun aftermath of World War One, longed for home, any home, preferably the idealized Swanee River home of the song.

A third, Jolson himself, knew how to make it universal Leon, p. Gerald Mast, unlike many other commentators who have seen “Swanee” as significant more because of its differences from most Gershwin songs that followed it, sees the restless nature of “Swanee” as a precursor to the restlessness that characterized “Gershwin’s spirit, music and career.

As for the song, Mast writes. This first Gershwin hit set the pattern for many that would follow: Click here to read Cafe Songbook lyrics policy. The sources of all quoted and paraphrased text are cited. Such content is used under the rules of fair use to further the educational objectives of CafeSongbook. All such images are linked to the source from which they came i. Any other images that appear on CafeSongbook. Such permission will be acknowledged in this space on the page where the image is used.

For further information on Cafe Songbook policies with regard swaned the above matters, see our “About Cafe Songbook ” page link at top and bottom of every page. Gershwin made the piano rolls for player piano between and Altogether he played for rolls. Even though Gershwin was well known for his improvisations on the piano, the essentially contemporaneous piano roll version Gershwin made for the recording heard below can’t be that different than what Jolson heard at the party in that motivated him to use the song in his, show Sinbadrecord it, and launch it on its path to immortality.

Please complete or pause one video before starting another.

Collected Works of Al Jolson. The album referenced above contains the track of the original recording. Listen on video and read description center column –this page.

The ballad numbers are sung in the style that gave Bing his nickname of The Crooner. The Buddy Cole Trio backings even include some organ with drum accompaniments swahee here and there Includes songs she performed throughout her career as well as live tracks between — her strongest recordings of her later years.