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Album: Portrait Of Bing CrosbyReleased: 1932
This may have been the first ever protest song - it became the anthem of the Great Depression in the United States. It tells the story of a worker who has helped build the country with his labor, but finds himself out of work in the tough times.
This was written by Jay Gorney, the father of Saturday Night Fever actress Karen Lynn Gorney.
This song was written for New Americana, a Broadway show that flopped. It closed just before Bing Crosby recorded his version.
This is featured in Brother Can You Spare a Dime?, a 1975 documentary about the Great Depression, written and directed by Philippe Mora.
Rudy Vallee added to this song's popularity by releasing his version the same year as Crosby's.
E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, who would go on to write the iconic "Over The Rainbow
" with Harold Arlen, wrote the lyrics for this. He said of the song's narrator: "He's bewildered. Here is a man who had built his faith and hope in this country. Then came the crash. Now he can't accept the fact that the bubble has burst. He still believes. He still has faith. He just doesn't understand what could have happened to make everything go so wrong."
By request of the New York Times, Harburg updated the lyrics for the '70s recession:
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?
George Michael recorded this for his 1999 album, Songs from the Last Century.
At the time, some politicians condemned this song, labeling it anti-capitalist propaganda and trying to have it banned from radio play.