George’s first published song, “When You Want ‘Em, You Can’t Get ‘Em, When You’ve Got ‘Em, You Don’t Want ‘Em”, (the longest song title of his career) was written in 1916 when George was 17 years old. The lyrics were written by Murray Roth, a friend of George’s who also wrote lyrics to George’s 1916 song “My Runaway Girl” which I have not been able to find any record of.
Fake-Book PDF (easy): You can download the fake-book sheet music for the piano and vocal arrangement here: when-you-want-em-you-cant-get-em-vocal
Here is how the simpler vocal version sounds (the piano plays the vocal melody line):
Fake-Book PDF (intermediate): The more complicated instrumental version is available here: when-you-want-em-you-cant-get-em-piano It contains the flourishes that Gershwin played on his recording of the song which you hear on YouTube here. A really endearing rendition by Victoria Hart can be heard on YouTube here.
Here is what the intermediate piano version sounds like:
Gershwin’s Piano Roll Sheet Music is here: when-you-want-em-you-cant-get-em-when-youve-got-em-you-dont-want-em
And here are the lyrics:
Verse: A little loving now and then
Is relished by the best of men.
That’s a proverb old and true,
Still somehow it’s always new.
A fellow wants a girlie bad,
But there’s none to be had.
No matter how hard you try,
You cannot reason why
Things always turn out like this:
Chorus: When you want ’em, You can’t get ’em,
When you’ve got ’em, You don’t want ’em.
All the wise men try to dope it out,
But it seems they’re always left in doubt.
When you get ’em, Then you pet ’em,
When you lose ’em, You forget ’em;
At certain times you have too many,
And other other times you haven’t any,
When you want ’em, You can’t get ’em,
When you’ve got ’em, You don’t want ’em
You’re never satisfied at all.