Motivation Articles

He Did What He Had No Business Doing

The Story of Art Tatum


Cheers to a boy who didn’t know any better.

Cheers to a man who didn’t let a little thing like reality stand in his way.

Cheers to a self-taught musician whose creativity and skill is the stuff of legend.

Cheers to Art Tatum, maybe the greatest jazz piano player who ever lived.

Art Tatum was remarkable before he was good. Blind in one eye, partially-sighted in the other, Art idolized Fats Waller like many boys did in the 1920’s. He wanted to play the piano, and he wanted to play like Fats.

That’s where he began. Where he ended up proves what you can do by shedding your self-imposed limits.

Born in Toledo, Ohio, Art stubbornly refused to close his dream off in fantasyland. He taught himself to play using Braille and piano rolls, and listening to the radio and phonograph. He imitated, he copied, he improved.

But here’s the really amazing part – Art didn’t know he was sometimes listening to two people playing. When he practiced, he was learning to play two parts of the same song at once! He had no idea, but he did it anyway. He learned it so well that years later, Oscar Peterson heard Art playing and thought ART was two people. He wasn’t the only one. Continued ›

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About The Author

Mike Kramer Mike Kramer
As a writer and artist, Mike has witnessed countless motivational stories and techniques. See all of Mike's articles.

Member Comments

  • Great article!! Thanks for sharing! - 6/4/2015 10:48:03 AM
  • Did this article fail to mention Art Tatum comes from the Black American community? Something about this article makes a talented person sound like a performing circus freak. As I said first, the article seems to marginalise the community Mr. Tatum is from. The same community I am from. - 3/10/2014 11:08:41 PM
  • Absolutely awesome. Totally and absolutely awesome! - 2/13/2014 9:03:38 AM
  • I love this story!!
    Thanks for sharing it. - 5/20/2013 12:11:32 AM
  • Wow ! Does that make me pause & reflect . I'm very thankful to Spark People for helping us see the world in another perception that our own. - 5/19/2013 7:47:00 PM
  • So true. SP is teaching us every day this is not only a possibility but a fact. - 5/19/2013 7:00:09 PM
  • Sometimes the Universe gives you exactly what you need when you need it - I was feeling very down this morning because I've been coping with a seemingly impossible situation... this story has made me hopeful again. Thank you very much for sharing.
    - 5/19/2013 3:36:21 PM
  • So inspiring... I have goosebumps! - 5/19/2013 2:09:57 PM
  • Very moving and inspirational! - 5/19/2013 12:31:01 PM
  • Thank you for sharing this much enjoyed article!! Makes you think life is really that simple:


    Know - 5/19/2013 11:44:13 AM
  • "What he had no business doing" has nothing to do with his color and everything to do with his handicap.

    I am so moved by this article. What an inspiration! It is so true that there are no limits to what can be done when limits set by man are taken out of the way and the human spirit is allowed to soar. Thank you for sharing this story. - 5/19/2013 11:10:29 AM
    What a determined , talented person. A true inspiration. It doesn't matter where you come from or what physical limitations you have ,the message is, you can succeed.
    What an amazing article. - 5/19/2013 7:08:42 AM
  • Great article - 5/13/2013 10:55:21 AM
  • I'm inspired by this story as I prepare for a long backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. I know with a mix of faith and determination, anything is possible! Thanks for the inspiring photo, too. - 3/10/2013 9:49:41 PM
    I grew up on this artist music (my Mom was a big fan), loved it then and now! Great story. - 3/10/2013 5:11:28 PM

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