Was this composer the daughter of George Gershwin?

Was this composer the daughter of George Gershwin?


norman lebrecht

November 18, 2019

We reported earlier the death of tonal US composer Nancy Bloomer Deussen, aged 88.

Readers have since pointed out that she had pedigree.

Nancy’s mother, Julia Van Norman, was a close friend of George Gershwin’s. Joan Peyser, in her disputed 1993 biography of Gershwin, claimed that George fathered an illegitimate daughter with Van Norman.

Nancy strongly believed this was the case, and she was the daughter.

Howard Pollack, in his 2007 biography, claims that Van Norman was so overwhelmed by Gershwin’s death in July 1937 that she suffered a psychotic breakdown and spent much of the rest of her life institutionalised, until her death in 1997.

In a 2002 interview Nancy said: I can tell you that my mother and George were exceptionally close, and that there’s a correspondence in the Library of Congress between my mother and George Gershwin, as part of the Gershwin Archives.
ALBURGER: Your mother’s name?
DEUSSEN: Julia Van Norman. But, as far as I’m concerned, it’s nothing that I ever want to try to use to promote myself in any way. I am who I am.


  • Anon says:

    So sorry to hear of her passing. Of course she was his daughter. But the powerful Gershwin estate fought her tooth and nail from ever being able to identify herself as such. I believe there was another illegitimate son who faced the same issue.

    Nancy Bloomer Deussen was an excellent, well respected composer but few people knew about her connection to her famous father. Reading all the biographical information on Gershwin, it was clear that he had a longstanding relationship with her mother. In my opinion, she was bullied by the Gershwin family into never being able to identify herself as his daughter.

    Just think about the tremendous financial success of George Gershwin and the money that is generated into his estate to this day – the complicated copyrights which assure the estate’s perpetual financial success. His family members were astute and very interested in protecting their own interests financially.

    The Gershwin family is what this woman was up against. They didn’t want to share their fortune with any illegitimate children, or dilute his noble memory in any way. Nancy Bloomer Deussen was a victim of this situation. Because of the Gershwin family interests, she was never allowed to openly acknowledge who her father had been.

    I think of Nancy Bloomer Deussen every time I play something by Gershwin. I study the complex copyright protections on most of his pieces, I consider the considerable financial success of George Gershwin and the impressive wealth he left to his family and estate. I always wonder if it was worth it to them to deprive a small, innocent girl the chance to know and to be loved and acknowledged by her father.

    Nancy Bloomer Deussen accepted her plight with grace and elegance. She never demanded anything from the Gershwin family. She simply went about her own life. She was a talented and hard working composer who made her own way in this world. Bravisima and rest in peace, dear lady. . . .

  • Anon says:

    “Someone to Whitewash Over Me”

  • It was my privilege to have known Nancy since the 1990’s when I distributed her publications. We became close friends and she and her husband stayed at my house when they visited the East Coast, often when her music was being performed in New York City. We often spoke of her plight against prescription tranquilizers and her testimony in front of Congress on the subject. I will not go into the details of her involvement with this subject here, but she was a champion of this cause and we owe her a debt of gratitude as a society. She overcame adversities in her personal life without the loss of dignity. More people should know of her – not just as a fine composer but as a model human being. Requiesce in pace, dear lady……

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    George Gershwin had very many lovers; it’s impossible to believe that no pregnancy ever resulted from this – the era long before the Pill.

    • Herr Doktor says:

      Yes dear Sue, and it’s nothing less than the height of liberal hypocrisy!! Clearly Gershwin’s socialist beliefs resulted in this depraved personal behavior which led to unspeakable results.

      To say nothing of what our favorite lodestar Jordan Peterson would say of all this…

      OMG….I’m channeling Sue AGAIN.


  • Ivy says:

    Too bad she could not get the Gershwin estate to take a DNA test.

  • Anon says:

    The 2nd known illegitimate child of George Gershwin, who I mentioned above, was an impoverished song writer who passed away last year at age 91, Alan Schneider Gershwin.

    Mrs. Nancy Bloomer Deussen was Gershwin’s child from a well documented, longstanding sentimental & artistic relationship with his companion Julia van Norman. Alan Gershwin was the result of Gershwin’s affair with a sultry dancer, Molly Charleston.

    Alan took a very different approach than Mrs. Deussen, and confronted the Gershwin family. He didn’t have much success. He was the spitting image of his famous father & was frequently mistaken for George. Once, when he was visiting Charleston, S.C., an elderly African American man ran up to him & embraced him crying “George! We always knew you’d return!” Despite this, the Gershwin family dismissed him as a nut case, claiming he was mentally unstable. They refused to give dna to prove or disprove his case.

    Although George was aware of Alan, and apparently met with him secretly, Alan passed away last year without ever receiving confirmation from the Gershwin family that he was, indeed George’s son. Perhaps Mrs. Deussen, who was a few years younger than Alan, observed how cruelly the Gershwins treated him, and for that reason, never pursued the issue of proving who her father was.

    Alan’s obit in the NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/06/obituaries/alan-gershwin-who-claimed-a-famous-father-is-dead-at-91.html

    • Metartmusiscien says:

      In what consist the “Gershwin family and estate” by the time the two became adult ? Where they so unwilling to share their money or where they so afraid to be fooled by opportunist ?