A while back, author, historian and storyteller extraordinaire Peter Quinn and I created a video using music, image and story called “Peter Quinn’s New York,” which coincided with the launch of Peter’s book “Dry Bones.”

We wanted to add Gershwin to the short video and we didn’t want to use “Rhapsody in Blue”…wonderful piece of music, but too often used, we thought. We opted for Gershwin performing his Prelude No. 2 in C sharp Minor in attempt to capture the feel of the city.

Peter said, “New York City isn’t so much a city but a character, it destroys some people, elevates others. The one thing New York won’t do is leave you alone, it’s always changing.” Peter continued, “The older I get, the more I’m struck by the drama of change that goes on around us. It’s a great gift for a novelist. You don’t have to search for drama…in New York…you just live it”…as Gershwin hits the final dreamy note of a work he called a “blues lullaby.”

Photo by Jack Rosenzweig.


One of the more interesting relationships in the musical history of New York City, is that of George Gershwin and Kay Swift.

Swift, married at the time, met Gershwin at a dinner party in 1925. They began seeing each other frequently and Gershwin introduced the classically trained Swift to show music and jazz. A talented songwriter herself, Swift began helping Gershwin with his musical thoughts.

Swift was divorced in 1934 and although her affair with Gershwin continued until Gershwin’s death in 1937, they never married. Swift’s granddaughter, author, Katharine Weber–she wrote a family memoir “The Memory of All That,” which discusses the relationship–suggests that Gershwin’s mother was unhappy that Swift wasn’t Jewish.

Swift wrote a number of tunes that are now well known and one in particular has become a popular jazz standard, “Can’t We Be Friends.” Click here to hear Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong sing the tune