Strange article in the last New Yorker magazine — I’m just getting to it now, it’s been a busy week of reading — about George Gershwin. The magazine is justly praised for its thorough, sensible studies of famous figures from the past, essays that give fresh insights into the strengths and weaknesses of people who have helped shape the way we view ourselves and our world.
But this article was different. Gushing from beginning to end, the writer portrayed Gershwin in the most simplistic manner: the poor, misunderstood genius who was destroyed by the evil classical establishment. She seems to have dug through every negative comment ever made about the man and his music, and brought back the juiciest bits in order to make her case.
I’m not denying that GG was criticized by some in his day — nobody is going to achieve the kind of wealth and fame he found overnight without getting a fair share of potshots from the rest of the profession. But for every one of those sour grapes, there were extraordinary compliments paid — see Ravel and Schoenberg, for example.
None of this is a knock on Gershwin, of course — he did what he did better than anyone else, and that is cause for celebration. I’m just tired of the stuffy classical music establishment stereotype — people keep using it to promote popular culture, and popular culture just doesn’t need that kind of help.