Why we should all be singing Ira's praises

Jeremy Bullmore

What was Gershwin's first name? Ask your friends and colleagues. Some will say they don't know and others will say George. A few will say, which Gershwin? And none will say Ira.

Yet it was Ira who wrote:

It ain't necessarily so
De t'ings dat yo' liable to read in de Bible
It ain't necessarily so.

Eighteen words, four of them repeated, of wit, compression and wisdom; and meticulously crafted to meet the predetermined discipline of a melody. Ira also wrote several hundred other lyrics of comparable brilliance – mostly for his younger brother but later for other composers as well.

George Gershwin was a hugely gifted composer. His work would have won him fame, fortune and eternal respect whether or not he'd been blessed with such a brother. But Ira was quite as talented a crafter of words as George was a maker of music – yet enjoys nothing like the recognition.