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Rapp on Jazz: Porgy and Bess

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A disabled Gullah beggar riding through old Charleston, SC, on a goat-drawn cart tries to save a beautiful and troubled young woman from thugs and pushers.

That might sound like a strange idea for an opera, but that is the plot of "Porgy and Bess," perhaps the greatest American opera written, a source for jazz standards, and one of the first works to take African American culture seriously as art.

George Gershwin, who married jazz to classical, was inspired by the novel "Porgy," written by Charleston author DuBose Heyward.

The two worked on the libretto and music at Folly Beach in 1934, where Gershwin first heard the music and rhythms of Gullah people. From that, George Gershwin and Dubose Heyward worked with Gershwin's brother, Ira, and Heyward's wife, Dorothy, to craft the work that would become "Porgy and Bess."

This has been Rapp on Jazz, a co-production of the ColaJazz Foundation and SC Public Radio. Support for this program is made possible in part by Fox Music House of Columbia and Charleston.