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Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?


by Bing Crosby

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? Introduction

In a Nutshell

In 1932, at the height of the Great Depression and the extreme of unemployment, the American people on the whole were pretty optimistic. Does that sound a little strange to you? Well, it should: the same can't be said for the American people in the midst of the far less intense recession of the late 2000s.

"Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?", a sweet little showtune that also became the most popular song of the early 1930s, captures some of the sadness and disillusionment of the times. It also captures some of the innocence, summing up the mentality of dispossessed America with a "sharing-is-caring" message that today would strike a lot of people as downright socialistic.

Was Bing Crosby (the guy who did "White Christmas" and then got it stuck in our heads) a socialist? Hardly. But was the American outlook back then different from the American outlook now? Most definitely. Read on to find out just how much things have changed in the seven decades since Bing Crosby's brotherly crooning first went on the radio.

About the Song

ArtistBing Crosby Musician(s)Bing Crosby (vocals)
Album"Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" (single)
LabelBrunswick Records
Writer(s)Jay Gorney and E.Y. "Yip" Harburg
Learn to play: Chords, Sheet Music
Buy this song: Amazon iTunes
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Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
"Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?" can hardly be expected to represent all the diverse perspectives of U.S. residents during the Great Depression—after all, the U.S. was as much a land of new immigrants and Native Americans then as it is now. But since it was far and away the most popular song of the early 1930s, it is definitely a valid source to help us learn something about how large numbers of people saw the key political issues of the Great Depression. It might be especially useful in helping us understand what made U.S. citizens stay so darned optimistic in the midst of an economic crisis that didn't really die down until partway through World War II.

On the Charts

The song was a #1 hit in the U.S. in 1932. High sales for Rudy Vallee's version of "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?" the same year made it the biggest-selling song in the first half of the 1930s.

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