JEROME KERN (1885 - 1945)
Jerome Kern was an established composer of popular song who no doubt influenced young up-and-comers George Gershwin and Richard Rodgers. Born and educated in public schools in New York City, he received his Master of Music degree at Heidleberg University in Germany. After returning to the U.S., the first of many of his songs was interpolated into a Broadway show. He was only 19. He scored his first musical in 1911 and had his first hit with P.G. Wodehouse’s lyrics to “They Didn’t Believe Me” from 1914’s The Girl from Utah.
Kern’s crowning success was 1927’s Showboat with Oscar Hammerstein II. The musical was a milestone on Broadway because it dealt seriously with racism and featured a racially mixed cast. It also contained hits such as “Ol’ Man River,” “Make Believe,” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man.” In 1932, again with Hammerstein, he wrote “The Song Is You” for Music in the Air. The title song for Roberta (1933) was written with Otto Harbach, and the show was later made into a movie.
In 1936 he scored the enduring Astaire/Rogers film, Swing Time (with Dorothy Fields’ clever lyrics), and it produced such hits as “The Way You Look Tonight” (which won an Academy Award for Best Song), “A Fine Romance,” and “Pick Yourself Up.” He returned for his last Broadway show, Very Warm for May (1939), which produced “All the Things You Are” with Hammerstein’s lyrics. After that he left for Hollywood where other collaborations resulted in “The Folks Who Live on the Hill” (Hammerstein, 1937), “The Last Time I Saw Paris” (Hammerstein 1941, Academy Award for Best Song), “I’m Old Fashioned” (Johnny Mercer, 1942), later a big hit for Judy Garland, and “Long Ago and Far Away” (Ira Gershwin, 1944).
The 1946 movie Till the Clouds Roll By, which took its title from a Kern melody, was only loosely based on his life but featured an all-star cast performing his songs.
-- Sandra Burlingame
Courtesy of JazzStandards.com