Hymns & Spirituals

Patriotic Odes

Minstrels & Musicals

Hard Times

Anything Goes

Protest Songs


Audio Clips

"It Ain't Necessarily So"
Gershwin, George [Performed by John W. Bubbles]. I Got Rhythm: The Music of George Gershwin, Vol. 2. RD 107. Smithsonian Collection of Recordings, 1995. CD 5936 v.2

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Minstrels Musicals:  It Ain't Necessarily So

Before writing the folk opera Porgy and Bess, George and Ira Gershwin, together with DuBose Heyward, traveled to South Carolina to observe the unique Gullah culture which Heyward had depicted in his 1923 novel Porgy. Gershwin's revolutionary score synthesized jazz, classical, blues, and gospel idioms. Nonetheless, since its 1935 premiere at the Colonial Theatre in Boston, the work has generated controversy. Duke Ellington attacked it for exploiting musical clichs, and W.E.B. Du Bois warned that the work threatened Black struggles for equality. Otto Preminger's 1959 film version prompted picketing of segregated theaters in the South. In his 1967 study, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, cultural historian Harold Cruse wrote: "It [Porgy and Bess] must be criticized from a Negro point of view as the most perfect symbol of the Negro creative artist's cultural denial, degradation, exclusion, exploitation and acceptance of white paternalism."

George Gershwin died at the age of 38, less than two years after the premiere of Porgy and Bess. His will stipulated that the opera always be performed in English-language productions by an African-American cast.

Gershwin, George. Porgy and Bess: An Opera in Three Acts. Libretto by Dubose Heyward. Lyric by Dubose Heyward and Ira Gershwin. New York: Random, 1935.

From the Clifton Waller Barrett
Library of American Literature.

Photograph of George Gershwin, inscribed to Georges Miquelle. New York, March 1928.

From the scrapbook of Georges Miquelle, 1927-1969.

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