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Bobby Bare Others Sing About Bad Times-"Hard times Hungry
Hard Time Hungrys
Are today’s times harder than during previous recessions and or depressions? If you are one of those out of work it probably doesn’t matter too much. For you it’s hard times, whether it is for others or not. During the 1970’s I found myself out of work and about every industry shut down and not hiring, at least not in our Twin Cities. I was out of work, discouraged, competing for jobs with what seemed like all the baby-boomer plus the newly “liberated” women just getting out of College. When I did get back to work I was starting from scratch in my forties, having to learn new skills and relationships.
Being born near the end of the Great Depression and growing up during and after the Second World War. The war created an atmosphere of shortages, rationing, thrift, Victory gardens, patched clothes, hand-me-downs and general lack of consumer goods, although during the war years people were making lots of money. They had to save the money because there wasn’t anything to spend it on. New cars were not available. If you had a car it was hard to get gas or tires. My brother who is a bit older than me said that people got around gas rationing by using something called “white gas”. He explained that it was something like dry cleaning fluid. Tires, he told me, were the problem. I do remember seeing rationing coupons that people had to use for buying gasoline and other things. Today’s recycling is nothing compared to what was done then. Even with something like toothpaste you had to turn in the old tube in order to buy a new one. I believe much of it was to extract the lead content. Think of the lead content we personally absorbed in those days. I also remember that saving was encouraged in the form of “War” bonds. Even as schoolchildren we had a day for buying war “stamps” which I believe cost a dime each. These were pasted into a book and could be later redeemed for a war bond. Later it became “bank day.”
After the war, when our industries turned to consumer goods I think the country went on a spending spree. They didn’t think there would ever be “hard times” again. By and large I don’t think there too many serious depressions until the 1970’s.In 1975 Bobby Bare, a country singer recorded an album titled “Hard times Hungry.” Most of the songs in it I would call folk songs although they are not traditional songs. Whether or not something is a folksong is a matter of judgment. Oscar brand in his book “The Ballad Mongers’ included in recognizing a folksong that it has”…a kind of simple noise…the result of an artless, unselfconscious quality in the music and lyrics.” That’s a quality I think many of these songs contain.
Another interesting album of folk and popular music, which was largely about the “Great Depression”, was called “Brother Can You Spare A Dime,” which is also the name of a song recorded in 1932 and sung by Bing Crosby. I know it was recorded later (possibly in the 1970’s by Chad Mitchell, without the Chad Mitchell Trio. The album is subtitled “American Song During The Great Depression” It has extensive liner notes and was produced by New World Records as part of the recorded Anthology of American Music.Inc.
One observation from the notes is that society was less homogenous than in our times. In the depression many affluent and middle class families found themselves hurting. “…the depression has swallowed up working girls and is now reaching teachers, college graduated and trained office workers…”from the liner notes.
The popular music industry of white urban America was large… dedicated to the proposition that Americans turned to song and amusement, entertainment and escape from bad times. This is probably exemplified by the selection “On the Good Ship Lollypop” sung by Shirley Temple An interesting song which, at first” appears to support the concept of escape is Rudy Valley singing “Life is just a bowl of Cherries “ But I’ve read that the song is really satirical. However, the difference can be shown in the quote from Bob Dylan:” Rudy Vallee. Now that was a lie that was a downright lie, Rudy Vallee being popular. What kind of people dug him?…If you want to find out about those times and you listen to his music you’re not going to find out anything about the times.”
Vallee probably did represent what some people wanted, but one might have to turn to Woody Guthrie in a song like “I ain’t got no home in this world anymore” to reflect some others. Or Gene Autry in the “Death of Mother Jones” dedicated to Mary Harris Jones who was a hero to unions and a social activist. She died at the age of 100. This song is one of those “true” folk songs that have obscure origins. Autry said he learned it from his agent William R. Callaway.
Yes, I think the country is going through hard times again. Not so much for me now, but I think I paid my dues and hope I’ve learned something from it. The only advice I can give others is to “hang in there. Try not to be discouraged, keep trying and above all seek support in others, friend, relatives and others. One has a tendency to avoid people when you are out of work beause of embarrassment. However, that’s the worst thing to do.
- "Hard times didn't stop me from moving forward"
This is happy times for me because I am a survivor and I'm still holding my head high, thanks to God almighty. In may of 1971, I finally got enough courage to leave my abusive husband of ten years. I moved...
© 2009 Don A. Hoglund