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Could United Airlines Drop ‘Rhapsody In Blue?’

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United Airlines Plane

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CHICAGO (CBS) George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” is so tightly associated with United Airlines that some have been known to mistake full concert broadcasts of the 1924 composition for United commercials.

But a published report now says the airline may be dropping the familiar signature music.

The Chicago Tribune reports that United parent company United Continental Holdings is moving to a new advertising account with New York-based McGarryBowen, and it’s not clear whether the airline will keep “Rhapsody in Blue.”

A United spokesman told the newspaper that since the new ad campaign has not been developed, it has not been decided whether “Rhapsody” will be part of it.

As part of the merger with Continental Airlines last year, United dropped its familiar red and blue stylized “U” logo in favor of the old globe symbol that had been used by Continental. But in the latest ad campaign, which is now airing, a familiar orchestral recording of “Rhapsody in Blue” still plays.

Upon announcement of the merger in the spring of 2010, United executives said “Rhapsody in Blue” would remain as the airline’s signature music.

United first licensed “Rhapsody in Blue” in 1987, agreeing to pay an annual fee of $300,000 to use the composition in its ads, recalls the Cambridge Music Handbook for the piece. Before that, United used a song that revolved around its slogan, “Flying the friendly skies.”

At the time, “Rhapsody” was already one of the most often performed concert works in the 20th century, the handbook says. But it had never been licensed for commercial use before.

In addition to being used in United commercials, “Rhapsody in Blue” is also heard by travelers passing through the neon-lit walkway connecting concourses in Terminal 1 at O’Hare International Airport.

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