I don’t know whether the name George Gershwin means anything to today’s young people. I’m guessing probably not, for the most part.
It didn’t have much solid meaning to me — until a couple of minutes ago, when I read his Wiki entry and was astonished at how many of his compositions I knew, or at least knew of.
I’m pretty sure my grandpa would have been a big fan, though.
Gershwin’s peak years — from the early ’20s to his death in 1937 — were my grandfather’s teenage and early adult years. I like to imagine my grandfather as a young man, sitting in front of some improbably large wooden radio with glowing tubes, admiring the creativity and craftsmanship in songs like “Fascinating Rhythm,” “I Got Rhythm” and “Embraceable You.”
(When I was that age, radios were plastic and they played Phil Collins. My grandpa got the better of that deal.)
How can I be sure my grandfather appreciated George Gershwin?
From one of his calendar entries, of course — one written 35 years after Gershwin’s passing.
The stamp in question can be seen here. Even though the stamp was issued in a decade not known for its aesthetic good taste, I think it came out pretty well. I like the way the pine green and gold play off each other.
(I wonder how many stamps the U.S. Postal Service has ever issued that featured both Jewish people and African-Americans. Three cheers for American diversity.)
I don’t remember him keeping track of any other stamp releases, though. Maybe one or two others, but not many. So the Gershwin stamp must have meant something above and beyond all the other stamps the U.S. Postal Service issues in any given year.
To my grandpa, buying a book of George Gershwin stamps must have been akin to punching up one of his songs on a jukebox, or buying an LP of his music … a way to support the artist, even if Gershwin’s family didn’t see any financial benefit.
And, for at least a few months in the spring of 1973, anyone getting a letter from my grandfather could have learned something about him, had they taken a moment to look at the envelope.
This would not be my grandpa’s only opportunity to put George Gershwin on his letters. In September 1999, the Postal Service issued a joint stamp honoring George and his lyricist brother, Ira.
I would have been getting occasional letters from my grandparents around that time, but — of course — I’m not sure I saved any. So I couldn’t say for sure whether the second stamp made it into his rotation.