Jay Gatsby, George Gershwin and ‘Rhapsody In Blue’

Had life been remotely normal at the moment, I could perhaps choose to start this 6th year of blogging with a 30, 40 or even 50 year retrospective (as I did last year before discovering some real stinkers made it to the top spot on the UK Singles Chart in 1970). I could add to some of the series that are still in progress or perhaps start a new one. I could share an earworm of the week… . But life isn’t “normal” at the moment is it, and that kind of blogging requires a calm and uncluttered mind.

We have had relatively low infection rates here in the North of Scotland up until now, but those days have gone, and part of me just wants to hunker down until I get my jab (the preferred medical term it seems). In the early days of the pandemic when the outlook seemed bleak, many of us probably had a few sleepless nights thinking this might be it – I know I did. As time went by we got used to this new way of doing things, and sleep came easier. With all these vaccines coming onstream, hope is now on the horizon, and if things pan out as they did in the aftermath of the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, we might even end up having another Roaring ’20s. Cue Jay Gatsby’s pad on Long Island, circa 1922 (Baz Luhrmann style).

I’m not going to hold my breath about that, and I think we’ve got more pressing problems to sort out before we party, but it seems many bank accounts are full to brimming at the moment as if you’ve been lucky enough to stay in work there has been very little opportunity to spend your spare cash of late (despite Mr Bezos waltzing off with much of it). In a balanced economy everyone gets a share of the pot, so I’m hoping some of this cash will help those hard hit sectors get back on their feet again.

It occurred to me I have never shared something from as far back as 100 years before, but then I looked again and discovered I have, all from film soundtracks of course. Rhapsody in Blue, written by George Gershwin in 1924, was used in the Woody Allen film Manhattan and I included it in my New York post, when journeying round the 50 States in Song (link here).

Apparently F. Scott Fitzgerald was of the opinion that “Rhapsody in Blue idealised the youthful zeitgeist of the Jazz Age” and in subsequent decades Fitzgerald’s literary works have often been culturally linked with Gershwin’s composition. Rhapsody in Blue was used as a dramatic leitmotif (a short, recurring musical phrase associated with a particular person, place, or idea) for F.Scott’s character of Jay Gatsby in Baz’s 2013 film. A nice bit of synchronicity for this post.

Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin:


If you watched the Gatsby party clip at the top of the page you might have spotted the bandleader was none other than Cab Calloway. He had a very distinctive look and performance style, so it could only be him. Most of us know of Cab, not from the 1920s (as I doubt if many visitors to this place were around back then), but from the film The Blues Brothers where he hooks up with the boys and turns in a great performance of Minnie The Moocher (link here).

Cab Calloway

Cab was one of the bandleaders at the infamous New York Jazz Club The Cotton Club, and after watching the film of the same name last year I wrote about it here. This time it’s an actor playing Cab but I think he did a great job.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I have no idea what happened here as I certainly had no intention of revisiting the music of the 1920s when I sat down at my desk today, but here we are. I suppose I am just hoping against hope that things do start to get better now that vaccines are being rolled out, and the idea of meeting up with more than one person at a time becomes a possibility. Watching these scenes at parties and jazz clubs however fills me with horror, as after only ten months we have become so acclimatised to social distancing and mask-wearing, I can’t yet envisage venturing into such a venue ever again, not that I’m ever likely to be invited to a Jay Gatsby kind of party anyway, no longer being of the right demographic. Cue Young and Beautiful, the haunting song from The Great Gatsby soundtrack by Lana Del Rey.

Young and Beautiful by Lana Del Rey:


I think I’m going to have to seek out our DVD copy of the film for tonight’s viewing, as I’ve been reminded how much I enjoyed it when it came out in 2013. It was one of the films I watched with my Last Thursday of the Month Film Club friends. Who knows, maybe Film Club will be able to be resurrected before too long – Like many others, I think I’ve missed going to the cinema more than just about anything else.

Until next time…

Young And Beautiful Lyrics
(Song by Lana Del Ray/Rick Nowels)

I’ve seen the world
Done it all
Had my cake now
Diamonds, brilliant
And Bel Air now
Hot summer nights, mid July
When you and I were forever wild
The crazy days, city lights
The way you’d play with me like a child

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?

I’ve seen the world, lit it up
As my stage now
Channelling angels in the new age now
Hot summer days, rock ‘n’ roll
The way you play for me at your show
And all the ways I got to know
Your pretty face and electric soul

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?

Dear lord, when I get to heaven
Please let me bring my man
When he comes tell me that you’ll let him in
Father tell me if you can
Oh that grace, oh that body
Oh that face makes me wanna party
He’s my sun, he makes me shine like diamonds

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?
Will you still love me when I’m not young and beautiful

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

6 thoughts on “Jay Gatsby, George Gershwin and ‘Rhapsody In Blue’”

  1. It’s funny, because I was talking to my mum about this just this morning. As she was born in 1928, who knows, she may well have been a by-product of the Roaring 20s. Although I’m not sure her parents were the wild, Gatsby-esque party types… her dad was a local councillor and Sunday preacher, for one thing. And her mum ran “The Cosy Cafe” with her sister. Hardly sounds particularly roaring, does it?

    Personally, I have no wish to go out living it up – now, or when it’s all over. I just want a rest. Book myself into a Sanatorium for a month.

    Love Gershwin though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we can guarantee there will be a reaction to the restrictions of the last year but will it be equal and opposite? Who knows, but if so Gatsby-esque days lie ahead. I did watch the film again tonight and really enjoyed it but more Baz Luhrmann in it than F. Scott Fitzgerald I think. Amazing houses, decor and costumes.

      Your mum certainly has had a long life and here she is entering her second decade ending in a 20. No I doubt if it was particularly roaring for her first time around, just as rock ‘n’ roll and Flower Power never came to my small Aberdeenshire village. But, you will always need a Cosy Cafe, whatever the era.

      I’ve seen the day I might have liked to go out and party, but doubt if there will be much of that for us for a while yet. In the film, Nick Carraway’s Sanatorium did look very nice so if it was available, just the spot for a getaway.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know, all the things that made the 1920s Roar, will take a while to get up and running again and make safe. That and the fact many of us with probably be afflicted with social anxiety after so many months in isolation. Hopefully cinemas and theatres will be able to reopen again though – Missed them as I know you have.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. No denying Gershwin’s staying power. Wonder who of our favourites ( Beatles, Beach Boys, Bacharach, Webb) will survive until the next version of ‘The 60s’ comes around?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I still have my vinyl album with all those great Gershwin compositions – It also has Someone To Watch Over Me and S’Wonderful amongst others. They have staying power these tunes, but I also think the Bs you mention will be around for a long, long time to come. Not so sure about some of the recent artists but I could be wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

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