George Gershwin, composer of Rhapsody in Blue and Porgy and Bess, was one of the United States' most popular songwriters. With his brother Ira, he was the creator of the first musical comedy to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama, Of Thee I Sing. George left school at the age of 15 to become a "song plugger" in New York City.
He was a more talented pianist than Ira, who wrote the words to most of George's songs. Swanee, popularized by Al Jolson, was Gershwin's first hit. Later he met band leader Paul Whiteman who commissioned him to write a jazz piece for a concert. The result, in 1924, was Rhapsody in Blue. Among his other popular works were Strike up the Band, Lady Be Good, and An American in Paris.