Jun 17, 2011

George Gershwin, Leonard Praskins, & Tim Praskins - Our Musical Connection

UPDATED: December 1, 2016 - If you are old enough or interested enough to remember the famous and incredibly talented American pianist, composer, and musician George Gershwin (left pic) and his fantastic music, or you have played, listened to, or studied his music before, then you may understand what a great composer his was and how he influenced American music for the last 100 years. Some of his famous compositions include "An American in Paris," "I Got Rhythm," "Rhapsody in Blue," "Porgy & Bess," "Swanee," "Foggy Day," "Summertime," and many others. His music influenced Jazz singers & composers, Broadway plays, film scores, famous musicals, and so many other types of music for the last 100 years. In fact his song "I Got Rhythm" is still a very popular piece included in various current piano curriculum for students including adults and children. So his music continues on, even to this day in so many ways including on braodway productions and movie scores. George wrote all the music and his older brother Ira wrote the lyrics. The "Gershwin brothers" were famous worldwide for their incredible music and George's fabulous ability to play piano at very advanced levels.

Leonard Praskins 1940's
The reason I bring this up is that before Ira Gershwin came on the scene in 1918 as George's partner and writer of the lyrics to his biggest songs, my Great Uncle Leonard Praskins (left pic) had been good friends with George Gershwin and was writing lyrics to George's early songs for a couple of years prior to Ira Gershwin becoming George's lyricist, when Leonard and George were both in their earlier teens. It has been documented how these very first songs that George ever composed had lyrics written by my great uncle. However, due to different career paths, my great uncle and George parted ways and while George continued to be a huge influence in the music world, Leonard became a very famous writer of Broadway plays, movies, and TV shows including, "The Champ," "Bird of Paradise," "Treasure Island," "The Call of the Wild, and older TV series including "Maverick," "Wagon Train," "Gunsmoke," and Disney's "Davy Crocket." With that kind of music history in my family, I am glad that I can carry on the family musical tradition. Not only do I play many instruments, teach, record, and compose music, but I am helping many other families throughout the US and the world understand how important it is to get their family involved in good music in some way. Once a person's life (at any age) is filled with good music (especially playing the piano), they will find it a comfort and an inspiration to their soul and something that will always be with them until the end. Very poetic, but true.

I hope you will do yourself a favor and get yourself and/or family members into music and purchase a good digital or acoustic piano to help make your dreams come true like I have. You never know what kind of positive influence you could have on others by making great music like George & Ira and my Uncle Leonard did so many years ago. In fact, one of my favorite songs in my teens that I use to play on guitar & piano and sing with a partner of mine was George Gershwin's "Summertime" song. At the time I did not know that my Uncle Leonard had anything to do with George Gershwin because he did not talk about it and there was no "internet" for me to find out. If you don't already have a nice digital piano in your home, studio, church, school, etc, do yourself and the piano around you a favor and get one. It will likely be one of the best decisions you will make in your life and give you a gift that just keeps on giving.

If you want more info on these and other pianos and lower prices than internet discounts, please email me at tim@azpianowholesale.com or call me direct at 602-571-1864

*Below is just a brief introduction to George Gershwin's life & career:

George Gershwin's parents emigrated from Russia to the U.S.A in 1891. He was born Jacob Gershowitz in Brooklyn, New York, on September 26, 1898. Early on he excelled at street sports in his poor lower east side Manhattan neighborhood and had no early musical contact. His first musical exposure came when a piano was brought to the Gershowitz home for his brother, Ira. George (age 12) took an immediate interest in the instrument and began to play a popular song he had memorized from a neighbor's player piano. His parents invested in lessons for George beginning at age 13. He studied with the American composers Rubin Goldmark, Henry Cowell, and Wallingford Riegger and with the Russian-born composer and theorist Joseph Schillinger. At the age of 15 Gershwin had quit school and was a pianist and "song plugger" for a Tin Pan Alley music-publishing firm, Jerome H. Remick & Company, earning $15 a week.

To supplement his income, on Saturdays, Gershwin recorded piano rolls under various pseudonyms. For his efforts he received $35 for six rolls. He was a great admirer of the comedian Ed Wynn and it was at this time, in honor of him, that Gershwin changed the end of his last name. Gershwin's first song to be published was When you want 'em, you don't get 'em, when you got 'em, you don't want 'em in 1916. It was the success in 1918 of his song Swanee brought him fame, established him as a composer, and marked the end of his systematic study of music. Swanee was originally written for a revue at the newly opened Capitol Theatre. It was not successful on that outing but when presented by Al Jolson in Sinbad it became the greatest hit of Gershwin's entire career. After this, Gershwin continued to be a prolific composer of many famous pieces as well as being ahead of his time musically. He unfortunately died an untimely death in 1937 from a brain tumor at the young age of 39 years old.


Here's the story of George Gershwin in the video below - very interesting to see what life was like in the music business of the early 1900's.



Here actual video below of George playing "I Got Rhythm." Incredible!



The famous "Rhapsody in Blue" performed below by the famous Leonard Bernstein


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this. Gershwin wrote one of my very favorite pieces of music, ever, his Prelude no. 2. Couple decades ago a bunch of kids in Seattle pretended they invented angst, but nothing any of them did came close to the bleakness and ache in this piece. And Gershwin was able to do that with such beauty, too, which the grunge crowd avoided entirely...

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