DUBOSE HEYWARD (1885 - 1940)
Dubose Heyward was the successful co-owner of an insurance and real estate company and realized his financial independence by the time he was 40 years of age. Although he had been writing and publishing poetry and short stories for years, his financial success meant he was able to devote himself full time to his writing.
Heyward wrote his most successful novel Porgy (1925) about life in Catfish Row on the Charleston, South Carolina, waterfront. DuBose and his wife Dorothy then collaborated on a dramatization of Porgy, which was to become the first major Broadway play with an all African-American cast. Shortly after Porgy was published George Gershwin initiated correspondence with Heyward proposing the creation of a folk opera based on the novel. Heyward was enthusiastic but had to decline as the rights had been assigned to the Theater Guild for the planned stage adaptation. The Theater Guild presentation of Porgy opened in 1927 and ran for 367 performances earning the Heywards a Pulitzer Prize.
When the rights to Porgy eventually became available, George and Ira Gershwin began their collaboration with Heyward and created Porgy and Bess (1935). For Porgy and Bess, DuBose Heyward wrote or co-wrote (with Ira Gershwin) the lyrics to “Summertime,” “I Loves You Porgy,” “My Man’s Gone Now,” “Bess, You Is My Woman Now,” and others.
Although DuBose Heyward is best remembered for his novels about black life in southern city slums, he was also successful with his writing outside of that genre, including the Hollywood screenplays for Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones (1933) and Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth (1937) (1934).
-- Jeremy Wilson
Courtesy of JazzStandards.com