Gershwin’s “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Art Tatum in 1949

Holding hands at midnight
‘Neath a starry sky
Nice work if you can get it
And you can get it if you try

Ira Gershwin’s famous lyric is not about work in the occupational sense. The song’s verse rejects “the man who only lives for making money” and who “works for fame.” Instead, it is the more spiritually informed work of building a loving relationship. The song’s narrator seems to have all of the answers until the final lines, “…if you get it, Won’t you tell me how?”

Nice Work If You Can Get It was written for the 1937 film, A Damsel in Distress, starring Fred Astaire, Joan Fontaine, George Burns, and Gracie Allen. George Gershwin’s sunny melody meets the jazzy virtuosity of the great Art Tatum on this 1949 recording:


  • Gershwin: Nice Work If You Can Get It, Art Tatum (The Complete Capitol Recordings of Art Tatum) Amazon

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

1 thought on “Gershwin’s “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Art Tatum in 1949”

  1. This is a very interesting article. Although I was very familiar with the songs quoted, I had never heard of Art Tatum. Thank you for sharing!


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