Born in Brooklyn in 1898 to Jewish immigrant parents from Odessa, Ukraine , Gershwin studied piano under Charles Hambitzer and composition with Rubin Goldmark and Henry Cowell. He began his career as a song plugger, but soon started composing Broadway theatre works with his brother Ira Gershwin and Buddy DeSylva. He moved to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger, where he began to compose An American in Paris. After returning to New York City, he wrote Porgy and Bess with Ira and the author DuBose Heyward. Initially a commercial failure, Porgy and Bess is now considered one of the most important American operas of the twentieth century. Gershwin moved to Hollywood and composed numerous film scores until his death in 1937 from a brain tumor.
Gershwin's compositions have been used in numerous films and on television, and several became jazz standards recorded in many variations. Countless singers and musicians have recorded his songs.