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In February of 1937, the Los Angeles Philharmonic presented an all-George Gershwin program, the highlight of which was to be the composer’s Piano Concerto in F with the piano solos to be played by the man himself.
At one point during rehearsals, Gershwin was at the podium and began to visibly sway. He waved it off as just a dizzy spell but the following night during the performance he simply missed several bars of the composition. The orchestra plowed through and hardly anyone in the audience noticed – that is, except close friend and fellow musician Oscar Levant. The ever sarcastic Levant went backstage after the concert and asked George if his presence in the audience made him nervous.
By April, Gershwin was experiencing severe headaches, severe personality changes, and increasing clumsiness. He could be working at the piano at nine in the morning and be completely unable to play by five in the afternoon. Physical examinations showed nothing unusual and he sought psychiatric help, especially after two psychotic episodes, the first of which happened when he was a passenger in a car and tried to shove the driver out of the moving vehicle and the second where he took a gift of chocolates and began to smear them over his body like a lotion. He had no recollection of either incident.
On July 9, Gershwin lapsed into a coma. He was finally diagnosed with a right frontal lobe brain tumor. In the primitive state of medicine in those days, the diagnosis came too late and the surgery carried out a few days later was ineffective. On July 11, George Gershwin passed away at the tender age of 38.
During the final months of his life George and his older brother and lyricist Ira we’re hired to write the music for the movie, The Goldwyn Follies. With George’s death, it was up to Ira to fulfill the contract with one last song. With the help of Levant and composer Vernon Duke (April in Paris), the trio recreated a melody George had been working on and his final work was submitted to the studio where it languished in the orchestral background of the picture.
Ira was bitterly disappointed. He poured his heart and soul into the lyrics. After they had written 500 songs together, he had but one last chance to tell the world what his brother meant to him. And the song was barely used.
It’s very clear our love is here to stay
Not for a year, but ever and a day
In 1951, Gene Kelly took the song and sang it to the lithe and lovely Leslie Caron along the banks of the Seine and turned it into an enduring American Standard.
The radio and the telephone
And the movies that we know
May just be passing fancies and in time may go
All things pass away, but certain things can even transcend death…
But, oh my dear, our love is here to stay
Together we’re going a long, long way
Two kids from the streets of Brooklyn, the sons of Russian immigrants, they had conquered the world together. From Broadway to London’s West End to the glittering world of Hollywood and the stages of the great concert halls – they would even win a Pulitzer together.
In time the Rockies may crumble
Gibraltar may tumble
They’re only made of clay
After George’s passing, Ira wouldn’t pick up the pen for another three years. He would write with other great tunesmiths such as Jerome Kern, Kurt Weill, and Harold Arlen but he would never be as prolific or as successful as he had been with his little brother.
But our love is here to stay…
One of the great love songs of the 20th century – not from a man to a woman – but from one brother to another.Published in