Official song of the recession

October 25, 2008 at 11:17 pm (capitalist crisis, Democratic Party, history, Jewish music, Jim D, United States, welfare)

Now that we are, even according to Gordon Brown, facing a recession, it’s time to remind you all of the great song of the last major recession/depression: Yip Harburg‘s “Brother Can You Spare A Dime?”. Here’s the definitive version, by the great Bing Crosby in 1933:

Harburg was a left-wing Democrat who called himself a socialist and whose main claim to fame was writing all the songs and a great deal of the script of The Wizard of Oz: a thinly-disguised paeon to Roosevelt and the New Deal. He’d be right back in fashion now. And if this recession/depression produces anything as good as ‘Brother Can You Spare A Dime’, I for one will be very pleased and surprised.

Musicologists may wish to note the similarities with other Jewish minor-key themes like Gershwin’s “Summertime” and Berlin’s “Russian Lullaby”.


  1. KB Player said,

    It’s a magnificent song – grand and noble. Bing is the man to sing it as he sings it straight, he doesn’t do any tricks or fancy phrasing, he effaces himself and let’s the song speak for itself.

  2. Jim Denham said,

    You’re so right, KB: Bing is not fashionable these days, but he sure could put a song across. And -as you say – he never had to resort to “tricks or fancy phrasing”. He let the “song speak for itself”, which is why his rendition of ‘Brother Can You Spare A Dime?’ is so great. The only other singer of the same generation to match him was Louis Armstrong, and they sang virtually the same repertoire: it’s very interesting listening to Bing and Louis in the early thirties, singing ghe same songs. Bing’s “Just One More Chance”, for instance, contains moments of pure Armstrong: the first time a white singer had done that.

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