Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?
DESCRIPTION: "They used to tell me I was building a dream...." The singer worked to build a railroad, a tower. He was a soldier in the war. The listener used to cal him "Al" and be his pal. Now, it has all come crashing down; he begs, "Brother, can you spare a dime?"
AUTHOR: Words: E. Y. "Yip" Harburg / Music: Jay Gorney
EARLIEST DATE: 1932 (source: Hischak)
KEYWORDS: hardtimes request money
FOUND IN: US
REFERENCES (1 citation):
NOTES [205 words]: According to Thomas S. Hischak, The American Musical Theatre Song Encyclopedia (with a Foreword by Gerald Bordman), Greenwood Press, 1995, pp. 38-39, this "is one of the first theatre songs to have a potent sociological message, and it remains one of the most poweful of the genre. Jay Gorney (music) and E. Y. Harburg (lyric) wrote it for the revue Americana (1932), where it was sung by Rex Weber and a male chorus as they wait in a breadline." "Gorney used strains from a Russian-Jewish lullaby in his chantlike music that casually sneaks up on you until it becomes a howl of lost faith." "The song was deemed too serious for the usually escapist nature of the Shubert brothers' revues and was nearly cut in rehearsals. The Depression was at its lowest point when Americana opened, and the audience immediately seized on the gripping number. Just as many were disturbed by the song, and the Republican administration was particularly worried with an election less than a month away. Attempts were made to ban the song from radio play, but it was already spreading due to popular recordings of it by Bing Crosby and Al Jolson. 'Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?' became the unofficial theme song of the Depression era...." - RBW
Last updated in version 4.2
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2020 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.