George Gershwin at the Piano Rialto ripples (RAG) with sheet music
This early Gershwin instrumental was co-composed by George and fellow Remick’s Publishing employee Will Donaldson. “Rialto Ripples” is a ragtime novelty piece that was composed in 1916 and published in 1917, the year Scott Joplin died. It was not a big success for Gershwin, though the piano roll version that he made, shows incredible dexterity and speed of play for a young man of seventeen.
Having worked for Remick’s music publishing company for two years, “Rialto Ripples” was the first of George’s work they agreed to publish. Having quit high school at the age of fifteen to work as a song plugger for Remick’s, George spent his workdays sitting at a piano demonstrating to customers how the sheet music sounded. Through this intensive experience he was exposed to a vast array of popular songs. He would analyze his favorite songs, like Jerome Kern’s, to understand why they succeeded the way they did.
This is not George’s first instrumental composition. That distinction belongs to a Tango from 1914 which is considered lost. Though firmly in the ragtime style, “Rialto Ripples” reveals the energy and rhythmic variation we expect to hear in a Gershwin piece. George’s dedication to creating interesting harmonies is clearly on display and highlighted by his willingness to repeatedly switch keys from C to F. (For the sake of ease-of-play for the beginner, I kept the song notated entirely in C though the music does change key in the various sections.
Find Gershwin’s sheet music in our Library.
George Gershwin at the Piano – Fascinating rhythm (with sheet music)
“Fascinating Rhythm” is a popular song written by George Gershwin in 1924 with lyrics by Ira Gershwin (sheet music available)
It was first introduced by Cliff Edwards, Fred Astaire and Adele Astaire in the Broadway musical Lady Be Good. The Astaires also recorded the song on April 19, 1926 in London with George Gershwin on the piano (English Columbia 3968 or 8969).
Many recorded versions exist. One of the rarest recordings is one by Joe Bari (a pseudonym of Anthony Dominick Benedetto, later better known as Tony Bennett) for Leslie Records in 1949 and issued as catalog number 919 with “Vieni Qui” as the flip side. Having rerecorded it as a duet with Diana Krall in 2018 for their duet album Love Is Here to Stay, he currently holds the Guinness World Record for the “longest time between the release of an original recording and a re-recording of the same single by the same artist”.
“Fascinating Rhythm” inspired the riff to the 1974 Deep Purple song “Burn”.
The 1926 Astaire/Gershwin version and a 1938 version by Hawaiian steel guitarist Sol Hoʻopiʻi have both been added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry of “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important” American sound recordings.
George Gershwin (born Jacob Bruskin Gershowitz, September 26, 1898 – July 11, 1937) was an American composer and pianist whose compositions spanned both popular and classical genres. Among his best-known works are the orchestral compositions Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and An American in Paris (1928), the songs “Swanee” (1919) and “Fascinating Rhythm” (1924), the jazz standard “I Got Rhythm” (1930), and the opera Porgy and Bess (1935) which spawned the hit “Summertime“.
Gershwin studied piano under Charles Hambitzer and composition with Rubin Goldmark, Henry Cowell, and Joseph Brody. He began his career as a song plugger but soon started composing Broadway theater works with his brother Ira Gershwin and with Buddy DeSylva. He moved to Paris intending to study with Nadia Boulanger, but she refused him. He subsequently composed An American in Paris, returned to New York City and wrote Porgy and Bess with Ira and DuBose Heyward. Initially a commercial failure, it came to be considered one of the most important American operas of the twentieth century and an American cultural classic.
Gershwin moved to Hollywood and composed numerous film scores. He died in 1937 of a malignant brain tumor. His compositions have been adapted for use in film and television, with several becoming jazz standards recorded and covered in many variations.
Gershwin was influenced by French composers of the early twentieth century. In turn Maurice Ravel was impressed with Gershwin’s abilities, commenting, “Personally I find jazz most interesting: the rhythms, the way the melodies are handled, the melodies themselves. I have heard of George Gershwin’s works and I find them intriguing.” The orchestrations in Gershwin’s symphonic works often seem similar to those of Ravel; likewise, Ravel’s two piano concertos evince an influence of Gershwin.
George Gershwin asked to study with Ravel. When Ravel heard how much Gershwin earned, Ravel replied with words to the effect of, “You should give me lessons.” (Some versions of this story feature Igor Stravinsky rather than Ravel as the composer; however Stravinsky confirmed that he originally heard the story from Ravel.)
Gershwin’s own Concerto in F was criticized for being related to the work of Claude Debussy, more so than to the expected jazz style. The comparison did not deter him from continuing to explore French styles. The title of An American in Paris reflects the very journey that he had consciously taken as a composer: “The opening part will be developed in typical French style, in the manner of Debussy and Les Six, though the tunes are original.”[
“‘S Wonderful, ‘S Marvelous” redirects here. For the Gilmore Girls episode, see List of Gilmore Girls episodes § Season 7 (2006–07). For the 1956 album by Ray Conniff, see ‘S Wonderful (album).
The song is considered a standard and has been recorded by many artists, especially jazz artists. In 1928, Adele Astaire, who introduced the song on stage the previous year, recorded one of the earliest versions with Bernard Clifton. The most successful recordings in 1928 were however by Frank Crumit and by the Ipana Troubadors.
Published 1930 by George and Ira Gerhswin. “I Got Rhythm” is a piece composed by George Gershwin with lyrics by Ira Gershwin and published in 1930, which became a jazz standard. Its chord progression, known as the “rhythm changes”, is the foundation for many other popular jazz tunes such as Charlie Parker’s and Dizzy Gillespie’s bebop standard “Anthropology (Thrivin’ on a Riff)”. The song came from the musical Girl Crazy which also includes two other hit songs, “Embraceable You” and “But Not for Me”, and has been sung by many jazz singers since. It was originally written as a slow song for Treasure Girl (1928) and found another, faster setting in Girl Crazy. Ethel Merman sang the song in the original Broadway production and Broadway lore holds that George Gershwin, after seeing her opening reviews, warned her never to take a singing lesson. The song was included in the Gershwin brothers’ 1931 Broadway musical. Of Thee I Sing. An instrumental arrangement for piano and orchestra appears in the 1945 Hollywood Victory Caravan. The song is featured in the 1951 musical film An American in Paris. Gene Kelly sang the song and tap-danced, while French-speaking children whom he had just taught a few words of English shouted the words “I got” each time they appeared in the lyrics. This version finished at #32 in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.