Tablet - Portrait

Tablet - Landscape


George Gershwin

According to Isaac Goldberg, Gershwin's first biographer, I Got Rhythm originated as a slow number in the Gershwins' 1928 flop, Treasure Girl, which closed on Broadway after 68 performances. And, as was the case with Embraceable You, it was to have been included in Florenz Ziegfeld's East Is West, for which the Gershwins compiled a considerable score and which never made it to the boards. In the upshot, both numbers found a definitive place in the Aarons and Freedley production, Girl Crazy, which opened at the Alvin Theater on October 14, 1930, for a run of 272 performances. Embraceable You was taken, with stage veteran Allen Kearns, by the 19-year-old Ginger Rogers, while I Got Rhythm -- in its familiar jauntily upbeat version -- featured 23-year-old Ethel Merman making her Broadway debut.

Merman was Vinton Freedley's find. Having heard her singing between movies at the Brooklyn Paramount Theater, he immediately engaged her. She auditioned soon after for the Gershwins in Sam and Delilah and I Got Rhythm, and George, always obliging, offered to make changes to suit her. "They will do very nicely, Mr. Gershwin," she replied. And they did. Ira Gershwin recalled "her assurance, timing and delivery both as comedienne and singer -- with a no-nonsense voice that could reach not only the standees but the ticket takers in the lobby."

I'm chipper all the day,

Happy with my lot.

How do I get that way?

Look at what I've got:

I got rhythm,

I got music,

I got my man --

Who could ask for anything more?

Thus brilliantly launched, the tune continued to hold a fascination for George, who devoted one of his more elaborate transcriptions to it in George Gershwin's Song Book, published in 1932, and lovingly garlanded it with sublime invention in one of his finest instrumental works, the Variations on "I Got Rhythm," for piano and orchestra, in 1934.

-- Adrian Corleonis, All Music Guide