George and Ira Gershwin: The Half of It, Dearie, Blues

Written by Amy Asch

Music Theater Historian

In category: Song of the Day

Published June 27, 2017

In this April 1926 recording (made in London for English Columbia), George Gershwin plays and Fred Astaire sings and taps.  To paraphrase the Passover Haggadah: if George Gershwin plays and Astaire sings and taps, dayenu.  It would have been enough.  But this recording contains a few bonus delights, as Gershwin interpolates licks from Rhapsody in Blue (written the same year as the song) and the men call out to each other.  Pure happiness.

Lady, Be Good! (1924)  was the first full score siblings Ira and George Gershwin wrote together and starred siblings Adele and Fred Astaire. Another first: This song was the first in which Fred Astaire danced a solo, rather than performing only as his sister’s dance partner or leading an ensemble. The song title may have been inspired by flamboyant female impersonator Bert Savoy, whose catch phrase, “You don’t know the half of it, dearie” became very popular in the late 1910s and early 1920s.  Savoy died in 1923.

author: Amy Asch

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Longtime NYFOS subscriber Amy Asch loves the Great American Songbook, and doing research about songs, songwriters, musicals and movies.  She compiled and annotated The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II(Knopf, 2008) and is co-editor with Dominic McHugh of The Complete Lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner, which will be published by Oxford University Press in February, 2018.  Favorite projects include cataloging Irving Berlin’s office correspondence and cataloging the working files and audio archive of Jonathan Larson, composer of Rent.  She recently provided research for Rob Fisher and Sheldon Harnick’s Lyrics & Lyricists program “Songbook Classics by Unsung Lyricists.”


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