George and Ira Gershwin composed “Nice Work If You Can Get It” for the 1937 P. G. Wodehouse film, A Damsel in Distress. This film depicts a light-hearted foray into mistaken identity and love at third or fourth sight through song and dance.
Fred Astaire introduced the song while dancing and playing around a drum set in a segment still regarded by many as a highlight of the film. Astaire’s recording climbed to first in the charts in 1938.
The sardonic overtones of the song’s title are cheerfully upended to highlight the spaghetti-strand complications of the search for true love and/or marriage in the film.
Sadly, George Gershwin died of a brain tumor July 11, 1937, about 3 months before the movie was released.
The major-minor-major progression, coupled with the 4/4 time create an effervescent flow much loved by many musicians, from Sarah Vaughan to Charlie Byrd and Thelonious Monk to (more recently) Sting.
Notable covers also include Art Tatum (1949), Sarah Vaughan (1950), Stan Getz (1951-1952), Ella Fitzgerald (1954), Benny Green (2001), Charlie Byrd (1991) and Tony Bennett (1993).
Tune in to First Take with Lando and Chavis – weekdays from 6-9 am MT – for Stories of Standards to hear our favorite versions of this song all week long!
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