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March 2009

Many great songs over the years have celebrated being out of work. It's just a matter of time before a new hit about being underemployed hits the pop charts. Below we've complied a few hits from the past, and posted some of the lyrics so you can sing along until they come for your computer.

Brother can you Spare a Dime? by E.Y. "Yip" Harburg and Jay Gorney

The audio below is sung by Al Jolson, it was a huge hit in 1931 for singers including Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee.

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, I made it run, made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad; now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower, up 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 Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And I was the kid with the drum!

Say, don't you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.
Why don't you remember, I'm your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And 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?

Happy Days are Here Again by Milton Ager (music) and Jack Yellen (lyrics)

No study of Depression era music would be complete without examining the song which was written in 1929 and featured in the 1930 "talking picture" Chasing Rainbows before being used by FDR in his first campaign for president. Get your foxtrot on!

Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
Let us sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again

Altogether shout it now
There's no one who can doubt it now
So let us tell the world about it now
Happy days are here again

Your cares and troubles are gone
There'll be no more from now on,

Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
Let us sing a song of happy cheer again,

Happy days are here again!

This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie

Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was born in 1912 and like many others of the era, named after the presiding president. Everybody knows most of the lyrics to this song that many believe should be our national anthem, written in 1940. But it really wasn't written about fat people driving RVs though the Painted Desert with 64 ounce Circle K sugared beverages safely resting in refrigerated cupholders. Some of Woody's lyrics are downright pinko! Unlike right-wing tools Shawn Hannity and Mark Levin, Woody truly was a Great American. Woody Gurthrie died in 1967 from Huntington's Disease. For a time during his prolonged illness, he resided at Greystone, New Jersey's famous insane asylum.

The missing verses:

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn't say nothing;
That side was made for you and me.

(woodyguthrie.org shows this variant:)

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.)

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I'd seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?

Choo Choo Ch' Boogie sung by Louis Jordan

After their breakthrough hit, Five Guys named Moe, Louis Jordan's band was a runaway success. Choo Choo is as good as music gets. It topped the R&B charts for 18 weeks in 1946. The song was written by Denver Darling, Vaughn Horton and Milt Gabler.

I'm headin' for the station with a pack on my back
I'm tired of transportation in the back of a hack
I love to hear the rhythm of the clickety clack
And hear the lonesome whistle
See the smoke from the stack
And pal around with democratic fellows named "Mac"
So, take me right back to the track, Jack!

Choo-Choo Choo-Choo Ch-Boo-gie
Woo-woo, Woo-woo Ch' Boogie
Choo-Choo Choo-Choo-Ch-Boo-gie
Take me right back to the track, Jack!

You reach your destination but alas and alack
You need some compensation to get back in the black
You take a mornin' paper from the top of the stack
And read the situations from the front to the back
The only job that's open needs a man with a knack
So, put it right back in the rack, Jack!

Choo-Choo Choo-Choo Ch-Boo-gie
Woo-woo, Woo-woo Ch' Boogie
Choo-Choo Choo-Choo Ch-Boo-gie
Take me right back to the track, Jack!

Gonna settle down by the railroad track
And live the life o'Riley in a beaten down shack
So when I hear a whistle I can peep thru the crack
And watch the train a rollin' when it's ballin-the-jack
For I just love the rhythm of the clickety clack
So take me right back to the track, Jack!

Choo-Choo Choo-Choo Ch-Boo-gie
Woo-woo, Woo-woo Ch' Boogie
Choo-Choo Choo-Choo-Ch-Boo-gie
Take me right back to the track, Jack!

Matchbox by Carl Perkins

Perkins was born into poverty but made out well as an alternative to Elvis. Unlike "The King", Perkins could wield a mean axe. His 1957 twelve-bar blues hit Matchbox confirms that he never forgot his roots. This is one of the most covered rockabilly songs, for example, the Beatles charted with it.

I'm sittin' here wonderin', will a matchbox hold in my clothes?
I'm sittin' here wonderin', will a matchbox hold in my clothes?
I ain't got no matches but I sure got a long way to go.

I'm an ol' poor boy, and I'm a long way from home.
I'm an ol' poor boy, and I'm a long way from home.
I'll never be happy cause everything I ever did was wrong.

Well, If you don't want my peaches honey,
please don't shake my tree.
Well, If you don't want my peaches honey,
please don't shake my tree.
I got news for you baby, leave me here in misery.

Well, let me be your little dog, till your big dog comes.
Well, let me be your little dog, till your big dog comes.
And when your big dog gets here, watch how your puppy dog runs.

Get a Job by the Silhouettes

Before pop music took on adolescent themes in the 1950s, many songs were about adult situations. Well, maybe not exactly the kind that Kanye West and others sing about today... Get a Job is a great historic example. It hit #1 on the charts in 1958, and was mostly the work of Silhouettes tenor Richard Lewis, thanks to his mother's advice when he got out of the army. If you were wondering where the 50's revival act ShaNaNa got its name, listen to Get a Job and you will know. It certainly sounds better than calling the group YipYipYip or MumMumMum!

Sha na na na, sha na na na na,
Yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip
Mum mum mum mum mum mum
Get a job Sha na na na, sha na na na na
Every morning about this time
she get me out of my bed
a-crying get a job.
After breakfast, everyday,
she throws the want ads right my way
And never fails to say,
Get a job Sha na na na, sha na na na na
Sha na na na, sha na na na na,
Sha na na na, sha na na na na,
Sha na na na, sha na na na na,
Yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip
Mum mum mum mum mum mum
Get a job Sha na na na, sha na na na na
And when I get the paper
I read it through and through
And my girl never fails to say
If there is any work for me,
And when I go back to the house
I hear the woman's mouth
Preaching and a crying,
Tell me that I'm lying 'bout a job
That I never could find.
Sha na na na, sha na na na na,
Sha na na na, sha na na na na,
Sha na na na, sha na na na na,
Sha na na na, sha na na na na,
Yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip
Mum mum mum mum mum mum
Get a job Sha na na na, sha na na na na

Hit the Road, Jack sung by Ray Charles

This song was written by Percy Mayfield, and was recorded by Ray Charles in 1961 and hit #1. It was intended to be a tribute to Jack Kerouac.

Hit the road Jack and don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more...

What you say?

Woo! Woman, oh woman, don't treat me so mean,
You're the meanest old woman that I've ever seen.
I guess if you said so
I'd have to pack my things and go. (That's right)

Hit the road Jack and don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more.
Hit the road Jack and don't you come back no more.

Now baby, listen baby, don't-a treat me this-a way
For I'll be back on my feet some day.

Don't care if you do 'cause it's understood
You ain't got no money you just ain't no good.

Well, I guess if you say so
I have to pack my things and go. (That's right)

Hit the road Jack and don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more.
Hit the road Jack and don't you come back no more.

King of the Road by Roger Miller

Born in Forth Worth Texas in 1936, Roger Miller earned more than a dozen Grammy awards after a short "education" in Korea. King of the Road was a crossover smash in 1965, hitting #1 on the Country chart and #4 on the Pop chart. His second best known song is Dang Me which illustrates his scat-singing abilities that ranks at least within 10 dB of Cab Calloway. A lifelong smoker, Roger Miller died in 1992 from throat and lung cancer. It's a good guess his cigarette shortage was only temporary...

Trailers for sale or rent, rooms to let...fifty cents.
No phone, no pool, no pets, I ain't got no cigarettes
Ah, but.. two hours of pushin' broom
Buys an eight by twelve four-bit room
I'm a man of means by no means
King of the road.

Third boxcar, midnight train, destination... Bangor, Maine.
Old worn out suits and shoes, I don't pay no union dues,
I smoke old stogies I have found;
short, but not too big around.
I'm a man of means by no means
King of the road.

I know every engineer on every train
All of their children, and all of their names
And every handout in every town
And every lock that ain't locked
When no one's around.

Trailers for sale or rent
Rooms to let, fifty cents
No phone, no pool, no pets
I ain't got no cigarettes
Ah, but, two hours of pushin' broom
Buys an eight by twelve four-bit room
I'm a man of means by no means
King of the road.

Living for the City by Stevie Wonder

Born in 1950, Stevland Hardaway Judkins has sold over 100,000,000 albums to date and he's not done yet. If you are close to fifty years old, own an Ipod, and don't have Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles on the playlist, shame on you, you need more help than just a job can provide. Stevie was the youngest artist ever to sign with Motown Records, at the age of eleven!

Chuck wants to clarify a misconception about Mr. Wonder. He wasn't born blind at birth. He was born premature, and they gave him pure oxygen, which caused his blindness. Happened to a lot of people in the 50's. The guy that figured out this problem died recently. His name was Arnall Patz.

A boy is born in hard time mississippi
Surrounded by four walls that ain't so pretty
His parents give him love and affection
To keep him strong moving in the right direction
Living just enough, just enough for the city...ee ha!

His father works some days for fourteen hours
And you can bet he barely makes a dollar
His mother goes to scrub the floors for many
And you'd best believe she hardly gets a penny
Living just enough, just enough for the city... yeah!

His sister's black but she is shonuff pretty
Her skirt is short but lord her legs are sturdy
To walk to school she's got to get up early
Her clothes are old but never are they dirty
Living just enough, just enough for the city...um hum

Her brother's smart he's got more sense than many
His patience's long but soon he won't have any
To find a job is like a haystack needle
Cause where he lives they don't use colored people
Living just enough, just enough for the city...

His hair is long, his feet are hard and gritty
He spends his life walking the streets of New York City
He's almost dead from breathing in air pollution
He tried to vote but to him there's no solution
Living just enough, just enough for the city...
Yeah, yeah, yeah!

I hope you hear inside my voice of sorrow
And that it motivates you to make a better tomorrow
This place is cruel no where could be much colder
If we don't change the world will soon be over
Living just enough, stop giving just enough for the city!!!!

 

Check out the Unknown Editor's amazing archives when you are looking for a way to screw off for a couple of hours or more!

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