Please Read This First!

The out-of-print albums that I post here are available for free! For many years, I used Megaupload to store my shares, but with their recent demise, I have switched to using MediaFire instead. If one of the shares is unavailable, please leave a comment requesting it and I'll re-upload it as soon as I can. If you have any problems, feel free to email me and I'll do my best to help!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

DIME '93 "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" Day (1993)

Tom Waits recently released a thematic three-disc set of non-album tracks, rarities and new material called Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards. I figured his rare rendition of "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" was a lock for inclusion. No luck. Even without this track, it's still full of his best material in a decade-and-a-half. 2002's excellent Alice doesn't count because that material was originally written for Robert Wilson's 1992 play.

Remembering that track reminded me of the DIME '93 "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" Day CD, on which it made its only appearance. Released exclusively as a promo to radio stations in 1993 to raise awareness (and funds) for The National Coalition for the Homeless, this is a fascinating compilation of renditions of the E. Yip Harburg/Jay Gorney depression-era classic "Brother, Can You Spare a Time?" The artists featured are a varied bunch that really run the gamut and cover nearly every time period since the track was composed: four tracks from the 30s, one from the 50s, four from the 60s, six from the 70s, two from the 80s and three from the 90s.

DJs were encouraged to play tracks from this CD all during the month of November, focusing on the 18th, to be known as Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? Day. They were also asked to read an on-air public service announcement or, alternately, play the spoken word promo as read by either Phil Donahue or Sally Jessy Raphael.

An excerpt from the CD booklet, written by Deena Rosenberg Harburg, Chair, Music Theatre Program, New York University (8/93):

The National Coalition for the Homeless is a federation of individuals, local service agencies, and national organizations committed to the principle that homelessness must be ended and that decent, affordable housing, living wage, and basic health care are fundamental rights of all Americans. The NCH is a non-profit organization governed by a 75-member board of directors, representing 47 states and territories. Approximately 1/5 of the board members are homeless or formerly homeless persons.

BACKGROUND: "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?", with lyrics by Yip Harburg and music by Jay Gorney, was written in 1932 during the Great Depression for the Broadway musical revue Americana. The song immediately became "a ballad of the Depression," in Variety's words, and swept the nation, remaining on the top ten list through records by Bing Crosby and others. The song even helped elect Roosevelt. The song's poignant, minor melody and brilliantly crafted, timely lyrics, spoke deeply to millions about millions. It still does, throughout the world.

Gorney, the composer, a Russian immigrant, put universal feelings of pain into the music which cries out with Harburg's words, the "baffling plaint" of the oppressed. The Dime song was Harburg's first classic; he went on to write the lyrics to The Wizard of Oz (music by Harold Arlen) and Broadway's classic satiric fantasy, Finian's Rainbow (music by Burton Lane).

"I grew up when America had a dream," Harburg said. "In 1930, the dream collapsed. The system fell apart...What happened? We were baffled, bewildered," and the unemployed/homeless man sang:

They used to tell me
I was building a dream
And so I followed the mob
When there was earth to plow
Or guns to bear
I was always there
Right on the job

They used to tell me
I was building a dream
With peace and glory ahead
Why should I be standing in line
Just waiting for bread?

Once I built a railroad,
Made it run
Made it race against time
Once I built a railroad
Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once I built a tower
To the sun
Brick and rivet and lime
Once I built a tower
Now it's done
Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits
Gee, we looked swell
Full of that yankee doodle-de-dum
Half a million boots
Went sloggin' thru Hell
I was the kid with the drum

Say, don't you remember
They called me "Al"
It was "Al" all the time
Say, don't you remember
I'm your pal
Buddy, can you spare a dime?

"Harburg identified with the common man as passionately and persuasively as songwriters like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits do today," wrote Stephen Holden of the New York Times. Indeed, the 17 sung versions of the Dime song here, make it clear that the song speaks for all Americans—past, present, and future. Distinctive voices, from Crosby and Jolson to The Weavers and Judy Collins, to the contemporary Abbey Lincoln and Tom Waits (who recorded the song specially for this CD and "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" Day), now sing for the homeless of today.

Check out this clip, created by YouTube member RedCeltic, that effectively sets Tom Waits' take to a depression-era slideshow:

Check out this music video for Judy Collins' version compiled using various vintage video:

I picked this CD out of a box of promotional CDs that were being junked back when I worked at my university's radio station. Lucky find! Where possible, I've listed the original album that each particular track originally appeared on in the comment field. One change I've made was to track 20, which is credited to Bob Wilber, but was actually performed by Soprano Summit, the duo of Bob Wilber & Kenny Davern. They also missed the accent on Rudy Vallée's name.

DIME '93 "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" Day (1993)
1. Tom Waits [1992] (3:40)
2. Abbey Lincoln [1991] (6:42)
3. Bing Crosby & The Lenny Hayton Orchestra [1932] (3:11)
4. Judy Collins [1976] (3:14)
5. Al Jolson [1939] (3:12)
6. Mandy Patinkin [1988] (3:27)
7. Peter Yarrow [1976] (2:29)
8. Cathy Chamberlain [1976] (5:01)
9. Chad Mitchell [1966] (3:41)
10. Rudy Vallée [1932] (3:37)
11. Odetta & Dr. John [1992] (5:33)
12. The Weavers [1963] (2:38)
13. Pat Hervey and Orchestra [1962] (2:29)
14. Phil Harris and Orchestra [1933] (6:00)
15. Phil Alvin [1986] (4:10)
16. Barbra Streisand [1965] (1:07)
17. Yip Harburg [1970] (2:15)
18. Dave Brubeck [1954] (5:20)
19. Sonny Criss [1975] (2:58)
20. Soprano Summit [1976] (3:00)
21. Phil Donahue - Promo [1993] (0:39)
22. Sally Jessy Raphael - Promo [1993] (0:38)

111MB ZIP archive
MP3: Variable bitrate (206.7kbps average)
Audiograbber 1.83.1 w/LAME 3.97 (--preset fast extreme)



ValleyElf said...

Zager & Evans (of "In the Year 2525" fame) also did Brother, Can You Spare a Dime, releasing it in 1971 on their album Food For the Mind. I have it on vinyl ... somewhere.

Anonymous said...

I've been to your site and downloaded many times. First comment, howsomever. THANK YOU. And this ol' song is an all-time fave with many generations of my family "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?" We call it one of those: "Oh The Humanity!" songs.



Anonymous said...

This is a REALLY interesting collection. What a cool cross-section of American music of so many decades and styles. Thanks so much for posting it.

Anonymous said...

great stuff! ...of course the best psychotic version ever is The Artwoods' super rare single where they used the alias St. Valentine's Day Massacre! I urge you to include it at the top [or at the end] of this collection.

Hugh said...

Wow, thanks so much for this post! I discovered this collection exists because of

Anonymous said...

This could be the anthem for the latest economic depression. What a great compilation! Thank you so much.
Blog on!

Dan said...

Thank you so much!

Edgar Hauster said...

That's amazing, thank you so much!

Kevin Sartori said...

Share has been uploaded to MediaFire and is available now!