October, 1998 Edition The Stock Market Blues, Remembering The Great Depression
October marks the 69th anniversary of the great crash of 1929 that plunged the country into a massive financial depression that eventually spread to the world and changed the financial markets forever. It is hard to believe that a condition that occured so long ago still affects our lives today. As it is, the market seems always jittery in October, whether that is due to continuing fear over seventy years or just the nature of financial cycles, who knows.
Of course the great depression also affected music. The euphoric music of the late twenties turned to more somber tunes and as the depression deepened, music turned to messages of hope and future happiness to divert attention from the reality of the times.
This month ParlorSongs takes a musical tour of the depressuion with depression era music. Some of the greatest music of our time emerged from this deeply emotional and trying period.
Loveable and Sweet
Music by: Oscar Levant
Lyrics by: Sidney Clare
Cover artist: unknown
In 1929 the roaring 20s were coming to a close, everything was wonderful, the economy was booming and the flappers were still out there flapping. I am sure that most people thought the good times would never stop. This song is a typical upbeat twenties fox-trot, full of optimism and revelry. Soon all would change.
The songwriter, Oscar Levant, was a composer and pianist and a close friend of George Gershwin. Levant starred in a number of movies, including "Rhapsody in Blue", the film biography of Gershwin. This song was written for the film, "Street Girl" and features a photo of Betty Compson.
The Song Without A Name
Music & Lyrics by: Benee Russel Cover Artist: unknown
The year after the market had crashed, the music industry was trying hard to stay upbeat but by now, the songs began to take on a new meaning. Lyrics especially began to reflect a message of fear, worry and concern for the future. Though this song's title says little about it, the lyrics speak volumes;
"I speak of laughter, I speak of tears
And of hereafter and faded years
What was this song that brightened up my day?
The song without a name"
When The Shepherd Leads The Sheep Back Home
Music by: Harry Warren Lyrics by: Edgar Leslie Cover artist: unknown
As the depression deepened, the music continued to reflect the times. Songs became more emotional and whistful and lyrics became nearly obsessed with dreams of a better future. This song's lyrics are no exception;
"I set my ship of dreams in motion to sail the ocean.. I keep praying to my lucky star.. My world will bloom with roses, they'll be honey in the comb"..etc.
In spite of the lyrics and the change in tone of the music, this song is a very enjoyable tune, uplifting. The cover photo on the music is of Vaughn Monroe who years later became famous with the hit "Racing With The Moon".
The Clouds Will Soon Roll By
Music and Lyrics by: Harry Woods Cover artist: unknown
By 1932, things are really bad, widespread unemplyment, hoardes of unemployed begging and looking for any work and no good news for the future. It was around this time that composers and the movies began making an overt effort to cheer folks up. Songs took on a tone of hope for the future. Things will get better, hang on, good times are coming. No where is this better expressed than in the lyrics of this song of hope.
"Night seems darkest just before the dawn, just as the daybreak nears. Soon we'll see a sunny sky, it's time to dry your tears. ..We'll find a silver lining, the clouds will soon roll by Just wait untill tomorrow, What a happy day that will be"..etc
Just listening to the song, seeing those lyrics and remembering the pain everyone was feeling brings chills to me. It gets better, really it does.
Here It is Monday and I've Still Got A Dollar
Music by: Michael H. Cleary Lyrics by: Mose Sigler Cover artist: HS
Another technique used to re-focus people's angst during the tough times was to add humor to the situation and make fun of the troubles we were facing. This song is an example of the use of humor. The song is about a college man who is "the kingfish of finance" because he has a dollar in his pocket while no-one else does. The song is upbeat and the lyrics are fun. No doubt, this song helped cheer up a lot of people and showed that everyone was in the same boat.
"One more week is just starting and the outlook is unusually bright. I'm the kingfish of finance in spite of Saturday night. Here it is Monday and I've still got a dollar. I'm the banker on campus 'cause I've still got dough. When a man in college has a dollar he's an all American guy. Havin' big times and spendin' his dimes."
Never Felt Better, Never Had Less
Music and Lyrics by: Abel Baer and Cliff Hess Cover artist: unknown
The depression continued through the thirties, though conditions slowly improved through the efforts of many of the government programs that found meaningful public works jobs for the unemployed. It took WWII to totally put the depression behind us. Even after ten agonizing years, the depression theme still was appearing in music. Soon after though, the tone of music changed to the patriotic themes of America at war and proposed victory. The lyrics of this song show the spirit and adaptability of the American people:
"Changed my way of living, changed my point of view... Without money, I'm doin' OK. Got the moon, Doesn't cost me a dime. Got the park after dark for a stroll... Nothing else matters I confess, Never felt better, Never had less...
This song is from the Hollywood song album of 1939. The album contains twenty one songs, presumably from the movies, however the movies each song may be associated with are not listed. The cover has photos of many of the silver screen and singing stars of the period including Judy Garland, Bing Crosby and Don Ameche.
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