July 18, 2008

Hard Times Come Again No More

Just an FYI—Christmas in July will start on July 21. Until then, we’ll do a little warm-up with some posts.

First up, the always light-hearted Great Depression. Lately, it’s been near impossible to turn on the television and not hear about oil, subprime mortgages, and corporations on the brink of failure. Our rebate checks, courtesy Uncle Sam, arrived in the mail—did it make a dent for anyone? Helped to pay bills or pay down debt. Times are tough for many, though just fine for the top-tier. That gap between rich and poor grows each year.

Here are some songs to get you through the hard times, most written around the Depression. They need little introduction and speak for themselves.

Hard Times Come Again No More – The Graham Brothers

Bonus: Hard Times – Bob Dylan

Stephen C. Foster wrote this song way back in 1859 and it never achieved the popularity of his other songs during the era. Decades later, the song’s lyrics of troubled-times spoke to a new generation of folk singers and those suffering through economic ruin. This was one of Foster’s favorite songs. As a bonus, here’s Bob Dylan’s take from Good As I Been to You.

How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live? – Blind Alfred Reed

Another song recently covered—with significantly altered lyrics—by a prominent American artist (Bruce Springsteen), Blind Alfred Reed’s straight-forward song tells the story of all-out depression ravaging the land. Reed, who was born blind, supposedly died of starvation in 1956.

It’s Hard Time – J.D Short

Short’s vibrato is striking—how many times have singers copied this wholly original style?

Times Is Tight Like That – Bo Carter and Walter Vinson

Carter and Vinson trade verses throughout this song—it’s fun at first but then supremely depressing once the lyrics sink in.

White House Blues – Charlie Poole with The North Carolina Ramblers

Bonus: To Washington – John Mellencamp

The current political implications of this song don’t need to be highlighted (though John Mellencamp recently did his own update). Poole’s version is about the McKinley assassination while Mellencamp uses it for contemporary comment.

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