parlando playlist #46: tom waits - brother, can you spare a dime? [1930-1993]

Posted on October 27th, 2013 by Scraps.
Categories: Music, Parlando Playlist.

I don't know which song I consider the best song in history (well, in English, anyway). One song in history is too much to consider; my computer-brain just babbles and shoots out a different song every time.

But my five best songs in history: I'm confident I can identify two of them. And two of them have lyrics by Yip Harburg. That's impressive (well, to me, anyway). One of them is "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"; the other is "Over the Rainbow", incidentally the number one Song of the Century according to the RIAA (grrrr), the NEA, and Scholastic Inc. And Yip Harburg (excellent name) had many other wonderful songs. For one thing, he wrote the lyrics for every other The Wizard of Oz song (I am fond of "If I Were King of the Forest"); he wrote "April in Paris", "It's Only a Paper Moon", "Last Night When We Were Young", and "Lydia the Tattooed Lady" : I wonder if he was proud of the fact that he wrote the signature songs for both Judy Garland and Groucho Marx?

"Brother, Can You Spare a Dime" was written in 1930, and was part of the Broadway musical Americana. It was in the middle of the Great Depression, and it stirred the heart of America, so much so that people tried to suppress it. "It was considered by Republicans to be anti-capitalist propaganda, and almost dropped from the show; attempts were made to ban it from the radio."* Many years later, the New York Times asked Harburg to update "Brother". He obliged:

Once we had a Roosevelt
Praise the Lord!
Life had meaning and hope.
Now we're stuck with Nixon, Agnew, Ford,
Brother, can you spare a rope?


I have more than thirty versions of "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" (and I want more). Twenty of them are on the Brother, Can You Spare a Dime Day CD, including the Tom Waits version.


*per Wikipedia, and Songwriters Hall of Fame: EY Harburg biography

current parlando playlist


Luke McGuff

Comment on October 27th, 2013.

Alas that "Now we're stuck with Boehner, Cantor, and Cruz" doesn't fit the rhyme.


Comment on October 27th, 2013.

If Yip were alive, he would come up with something!


Comment on October 27th, 2013.

It's like an early version of the "Jobs, Cash, and Hope" joke.


Comment on November 10th, 2013.

That's a good song for Waits. I think he'd do well with most songs of that era.

I believe the only version of "BCYSAD" I own is on the other end of the vocal spectrum: George Michael.


Comment on November 11th, 2013.

I like George Michael's version.

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