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Every Gershwin fan in the world should have this book.
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This book tells the musical history of Ira, Nicknamed "the Jeweler" because of his meticulous fitting of words to music, or as he put it, the construction of a music/word mosaic, the sometimes under-appreciated Gershwin wrote the clever, ironic, and always intelligent word to Gershwin tunes as well as collaborations with (Harburg, Kern, Arlen, Weill, Wodehouse, Bolton, and Duke).
As in his brilliant "Poets of Tin Pan Alley," Furia's masterfully dissects the lyricist's craft, explaining such techniques as pseudo rhymes, internal rhymes, alliteration and assonance, allusions and tone. He examines the importance of a song's "singability." Furia, as in 'Poets' traces the history of the theatre song as a stand-alone number (a la Ziegfried Follies) to its height as an integral "character" that advances the show's plot (first accomplished in "Showboat" and "Oklahoma." Finally, he shows how Ira Gershwin's style (and often his skill) was different from other lyricists of the Golden Age.
The problem is that there is a dearth of original research, especially about Ira's latter non-writing years. I wonder why the author did not interview Michael Feinstein, who befriended Gershwin in the latter year, and here receives a one paragraph cite on the next to the last page. Most of the references on the latter years come from two books alone. Furthermore, while not the life of the party like George, we don't get much of a clue as Ira's personality or personal life. Some original research into Gershwin's personal life and post-writing years would have added greatly to the book. Finally, his use of phrases such as "saying I love you in 32 bars" and "singability" is so repetitive that it becomes grating.
Still, this is an excellent book for students of songwriting and Gershwin fans in particular. There are some excellent behind-the-scenes details about how songs are written (and sometimes ruined) and it's mostly an enjoyable read. For a better overview of the best lyricists of the era, I highly recommend his earlier "The Poets of Tin Pan Alley."