Truly Moving – Brother Can You Spare A Dime?

A while ago I wrote a post about the depression period song Brother Can you spare a dime?, in which I played you a number of differing versions of this classic song.  This evening while I was enjoying myself simply following the links on Youtube (as one does), going from one amazing bit of music to the next, I came across this version of that song sung by Dr John and Odetta which was so amazing I felt I had to add it to the blog.

The only thing to be said about it is that it is an astoundingly beautiful and moving version of the song and the way the two voices blend and flow is simply wonderful.

Anyhow, I have no desire to examine this version to death, but to simply let you listen to it and enjoy it as I did, so here it is for your pleasure.

So, did you enjoy that?   I really do hope you did, and that you might even feel moved to leave a comment here telling me how you felt about this version of that song.

Link to my earlier post about this song:

The Great Crash – Songs That Describe It. Pt 2

During the Great Depression there were really two songs that captured the spirit of the time. The first one I have already written about ( link to part one) in which I discussed and gave you various versions of the song “No one wants to know you when you are down and out”, so now I am going to have a look at the one that really does sum up the spirit and suffering of that awful time to perfection.

This is the well known song, Brother can you spare a dime?

Before I get into the many differing versions of this classic song, I should give you a wee bit of background to it.  And who better to tell us what the song is really about than the guy who wrote the words – E. Y. “Yip” Harburg.

He had this to say about the purpose and message of this song, which by the way was actually written for a musical called Americana in 1930, just as the Great Depression was beginning to bite.

“I didn’t want a song to depress people. I wanted to write a song to make people think. It isn’t a hand-me-out song of ‘give me a dime, I’m starving, I’m bitter’, it wasn’t that kind of sentimentality”.  The song asks why the men who built the nation – built the railroads, built the skyscrapers – who fought in the war (World War I), who tilled the earth, who did what their nation asked of them should, now that the work is done and their labor no longer necessary, find themselves abandoned and in bread lines.

It refers to “Yankee Doodle Dum”, a reference to patriotism, and the evocation of veterans also recalls protests about military bonuses payable only after 21 years, which were a topical issue.

So that is the background to this song, and to start us off I shall give you the best known and as near original version as there is, that being the version that Bing Crosby recorded back in the 30’s.

So as you can see, the guy is not really begging, he is saying what a huge contribution he made to things, and that now he has been dumped through no fault of his own.   He still has his pride, but admits he needs help, but not as a beggar, but as an equal who is in temporary need.  A powerful song.

Continue reading “The Great Crash – Songs That Describe It. Pt 2”