Born in 1898 to Russian Jewish parents in New York, Gershwin started working as a 'song plugger' in Tin Pan Alley at the age of 15. Here he had his first big hit, Swanee. From 1924, he collaborated with his brother Ira on a series of successful musicals, which included Lady Be Good, Oh, Kay!, Funny Face, Strike up the Band, Show Girl, Girl Crazy and Of Thee I Sing, which won a Pulitzer Prize. 1924 was also the year he composed his most famous classical work, the Rhapsody in Blue for piano and orchestra. It was orchestrated by Ferde Grofe and played by Paul Whiteman's band.
Gershwin travelled to Paris to receive tuition from Nadia Boulanger and Maurice Ravel. Here, he composed another famous work, An American in Paris. Following his return to the United States, he composed the folk opera Porgy and Bess in 1935. This work was not only revolutionary in its use of jazz and folk elements, but also the fact that it was written for a completely African American cast.
Early in 1937, Gershwin began suffering from severe headaches, and a malignant brain tumour was diagnosed. He died in the middle of that year, following unsuccessful surgery to remove the tumour.
According to Wikipedia, "in 2005, The Guardian determined using 'estimates of earnings accrued in a composer's lifetime' that George Gershwin was the richest composer of all time."