E. Y. Harburg

“Brother, Can you Spare a Dime?”: The Depression Era

Posted on Updated on

(624 Words)

What became infamously known as the Depression Era saw the crippling of a great country from 1930 to 1936. It had followed the epoch of the Wall Street Crash which rocked the American economy to the ground and hit every working man. Near on fifteen million people were out of work, and even those fortunate ones who before had had money were left with nothing, not a ‘dime’. And, this was not England where welfare is given, these men had nothing. So, how do you capture this moment in history? E. Y. Harburg’s ‘Brother Can You Spare a Dime is one of the most famous songs of that era that encapsulates all that was happening in those desperate times as the protagonist protests his woes.

To begin, the opening lines of each verse tell us what this hard-working man has done for his country; ‘they used to tell me I was building a dream’, ‘once I built a railroad, I made it run’, ‘once I built a tower way up to the sun’. This guy has made an investment in his country, he has worked blood, sweat, and tears to make it better. He was one of the many that helped build the infrastructure; railroads, towers, to make America prosper and grow. Now, this average Joe’s dream of building an all-powerful country where he continues to work for its prosperity has been smashed to the extent that he has been reduced to begging in the street with only his past to think about.

Subscribe to get access

Read more of this content when you subscribe today.