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Fascinating Rhythm

Little can be said about George and Ira Gershwin that hasn’t already been spoken: They elevated the musical comedy to an art form, raised popular musical theater to a new level of sophistication and crossed musical boundaries by blending cross-cultural forms such as jazz, blues and concert music. Their music endures today with “Porgy and Bess,” a staple on the theater circuit, and countless revivals of their timeless tunes by artists like Rod Stewart, Ella Fitzgerald, Maureen McGovern, Tony Bennett and Janis Joplin.

Paul Simon. Robert Clark, photographer. Left to right: George and Ira Gershwin seated, three-quarter length portrait. ca. 1920–1930.

Because of their cross-generational influence and effect on the evolution of American music, the Library has developed an award in their name that recognizes musical achievement in popular culture all over the world. The first annual recipient of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song is Paul Simon, a noted singer-songwriter whose music has bridged people and cultures of the world. Most notably, his 1986 album “Graceland” incorporated a great number of musical styles, including zydeco, Tex-Mex and African vocal music. The album was added to the Library’s 2006 National Recording Registry. For more information on the award, make sure to read the online press release. For the latest news on Simon, visit his official Web site.

The Gershwin Collection at the Library of Congress is the world's preeminent resource for the documentary legacy of George and Ira Gershwin. It contains a wealth of materials that provide insight into the brothers' careers and personalities, from manuscript and printed music, lyric sheets and librettos to photographs, scrapbooks and royalty statements. The September 1998 issue of the Library of Congress Information Bulletin ran a cover story celebrating the collection.

Other notable musicians represented at the Library include Dolly Parton, Roger Reynolds and John Philip Sousa.

Under the terms of the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, the Librarian of Congress is responsible for annually selecting recordings that are "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" to be placed in the National Recording Registry.

Simon’s “Graceland” joins the 1940 and 1942 recordings of “Porgy and Bess” and the 1956 “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook,” among others.

A. Paul Simon. Robert Clark, photographer. Reproduction information: Not available for reproduction.

B. Left to right: George and Ira Gershwin seated, three-quarter length portrait. ca. 1920–1930. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-DIG-ppmsca-10443 (digital file from original photograph), LC-USZ62-90954 (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: BIOG FILE - Gershwin, George <item> [P&P]