Jerome Kern

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Jerome Kern
BirthplaceNew York City, New York

Kern, Jerome

Kern, Jerome (kûrn), 1885–1945, American composer of musicals, b. New York City. After studying in New Jersey and New York he studied composition in Germany and England. His first success was the operetta The Red Petticoat (1912). Among the numerous musicals that followed were Leave It to Jane (1917), Sally (1920), Sunny (1925), The Cat and the Fiddle (1931), and Roberta (1933). After 1931 he wrote scores for many films, including versions of several of his stage successes. His outstanding work is Show Boat (1927), for which Oscar Hammerstein 2d wrote an adaptation of Edna Ferber's novel. Kern's many famous songs include “Ol' Man River,” from Show Boat, and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” from Roberta. He also wrote an orchestral work, A Portrait of Mark Twain (1942).


See biographies by G. Bordman (1980) and M. Freedman (1986).

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Kern, Jerome

(1885–1945) composer; born in New York City. After a start in Broadway theaters as a song-plugger and rehearsal pianist, he began contributing songs to musical shows. With librettist Guy Bolton, he wrote his first hit show, Very Good, Eddie (1915), which brought a new sophistication to musical theater by connecting songs and story more closely than the popular shows of the time. With lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, he wrote his most important work, Show Boat (1927), in which he further integrated lyrical text with the dramatic demands of plot and character to create the first American musical play. In 1939 he moved to Hollywood and wrote only for films. One of the most influential songwriters in American musical theater, he is credited with over 1,000 songs in 104 stage and film productions, including such standards as "Ol' Man River" (1927), "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (1933), and "All the Things You Are" (1939).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.