US lyricist. In 1917 he began to write song lyrics and in 1918 he began his long collaboration with his brother, the composer George Gershwin. Together they created such classic hits as ‘The Man I Love’ (1924), ‘'S Wonderful’ (1927), and ‘Of Thee I Sing’ (1931). Ira also contributed lyrics to George's Porgy and Bess (1935) and they wrote original scores for a number of movie musicals. After George's death in 1937, Ira retired temporarily from songwriting for four years, returning to collaborate with such composers as Kurt Weill, Jerome Kern, and Harold Arlen. In 1959 he published an account of his work, Lyrics on Several Occasions.
He was born in New York City. Showing a youthful talent for writing and drawing, he wrote humorous columns while in high school. But after two years at the City College of New York, he dropped out to work at odd jobs and to concentrate on his writing. He sold his first magazine piece in 1917 and became a reviewer of vaudeville shows. As a lyricist Gershwin initially worked under the name of Arthur Francis, but from 1924 used his own name. He retired for good from songwriting in 1960. His health incapacitated him after 1970 but he maintained an active role in the Gershwin properties and even revised his own lyrics. A shy and introspective man, he was content to let his younger brother take the limelight, but later generations have not failed to realize how much his words contribute to the success of the Gershwin songbook.
George's first connections with the musical stage were as a song-plugger and rehearsal pianist. In 1918 he teamed...