Saturday, September 1, 2012

Mandy Patinkin • Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?

Mandy Patinkin cover

After hearing the doomsday calls from the Republicans at their convention this week, I thought it would be appropriate to remind us all about a time when the the economy really was in trouble. I think back to the Stock Market Crash of 1929, with Republican President Herbert Hoover in the White House. The country was devastated when the bottom fell out of Wall Street and the banks, following a period of great wealth and greed. That depression lasted ten years, and it took the election of Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt to right the ship, and bring the country back to a position of strength and prosperity. In 1931, the country was still floundering under the leadership of the Republicans, and E. Y. "Yip" Harburg and composer Jay Gorney wrote a song that spoke for much of the country. "Brother Can You Spare A Dime?" was a song that was sung by many, including Rudy Vallee, Bing Crosby, and Al Jolson. It was also recorded much later by the immensely talented Mandy Patinkin on his eponymous debut.

Oddly enough, that scenario was eerily familiar, right? The financial sector falling apart on the watch of a Republican President during a time when the rich got richer, and the poor stayed poor. Thankfully, a Democrat took over and brought the country back to a good place. Hmmm. Well, "Brother Can You Spare A Dime?" wasn't the only Yip Harburg song Mandy performed on the Letterman show. This time, Mandy took on the Judy Garland classic "Over The Rainbow", with lyrics by Harburg and music by Harold Arlen. The song was from The Wizard of Oz, and associated with Garland throughout her career. But here Mandy gives is a try live on national television. And makes it great.

In another appearance on the David Letterman show, Mandy once again went back to Tin Pan Alley to sing "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody", written by Jean Schwartz, Sam M. Lewis and Joe Young. The song was published in 1918, and first recorded by Al Jolson, becoming a theme song associated with the fabled star.

You can purchase Mandy's eponymous album on iTunes and Amazon. It is incredible, and well worth owning. I first purchased my copy in 1989 when it was first released. For more about Mandy Patinkin, visit his official website.

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