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Origins: Buddy Can you Spare a Dime - who was Al?

DigiTrad:
BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A DIME?


Related threads:
Chords Req: Brother Can You Spare a Dime? (41)
Chord Req: Brother Can You Spare a Dime (28)
Tune Req: Brother can you spare a dime (6) (closed)
Chords Req: Buddy Can You Spare a Dime? (4) (closed)


houghmagandie 07 Jun 07 - 06:14 PM
Lanfranc 07 Jun 07 - 06:30 PM
GUEST,JTT 07 Jun 07 - 07:24 PM
GUEST,meself 07 Jun 07 - 11:21 PM
GUEST,houghmagandie 08 Jun 07 - 03:20 AM
Big Al Whittle 08 Jun 07 - 10:51 AM
RTim 08 Jun 07 - 11:39 AM
GUEST 08 Jun 07 - 11:57 AM
GUEST,meself 08 Jun 07 - 12:04 PM
GUEST,JTT 08 Jun 07 - 12:15 PM
Mrrzy 08 Jun 07 - 12:34 PM
Amos 08 Jun 07 - 12:46 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 08 Jun 07 - 01:01 PM
DADGBE 08 Jun 07 - 01:07 PM
GUEST,meself 08 Jun 07 - 02:42 PM
GUEST,Bill 08 Jun 07 - 06:22 PM
GUEST,Al 08 Aug 07 - 02:03 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 08 Aug 07 - 02:09 PM
GUEST,anto 08 Aug 07 - 03:23 PM
Lanfranc 08 Aug 07 - 07:06 PM
Jon Bartlett 08 Aug 07 - 11:09 PM
GUEST,Lighter at work 09 Aug 07 - 08:53 AM
GUEST,Cool Beans (away from home) 09 Aug 07 - 08:55 AM
Barry Finn 09 Aug 07 - 09:23 AM
Cool Beans 09 Aug 07 - 01:17 PM
Doug Chadwick 09 Aug 07 - 01:49 PM
Donuel 10 Aug 07 - 10:14 AM
Flash Company 10 Aug 07 - 10:34 AM
SharonA 10 Aug 07 - 01:24 PM
Leadbelly 10 Aug 07 - 02:08 PM
GUEST,Anne Tait 05 Jun 09 - 11:34 PM
olddude 05 Jun 09 - 11:38 PM
Joe_F 06 Jun 09 - 09:50 PM
GUEST,Ken Brock 06 Jun 09 - 11:51 PM
Stringsinger 07 Jun 09 - 07:53 PM
GUEST,LIGHTER 07 Jun 09 - 08:34 PM
Nigel Parsons 08 Jun 09 - 10:18 AM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 08 Jun 09 - 01:49 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 08 Jun 09 - 03:50 PM
McGrath of Harlow 08 Jun 09 - 05:00 PM
Stringsinger 08 Jun 09 - 06:47 PM
GUEST,John Amendall 09 Jul 13 - 02:18 AM
GUEST,John Amendall 09 Jul 13 - 02:21 AM
voyager 09 Jul 13 - 09:09 AM
MGM·Lion 09 Jul 13 - 09:59 AM
Elmore 09 Jul 13 - 10:15 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 09 Jul 13 - 12:02 PM
Big Al Whittle 09 Jul 13 - 12:57 PM
GUEST,mayomick 09 Jul 13 - 01:38 PM
Will Fly 09 Jul 13 - 02:22 PM
MGM·Lion 09 Jul 13 - 02:41 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 09 Jul 13 - 02:45 PM
Will Fly 09 Jul 13 - 04:45 PM
Big Al Whittle 09 Jul 13 - 07:29 PM
Will Fly 10 Jul 13 - 08:36 AM
GUEST,mayomick 02 Sep 13 - 05:47 AM
Phil Edwards 02 Sep 13 - 10:21 AM
Phil Edwards 02 Sep 13 - 10:23 AM
Stringsinger 02 Sep 13 - 11:03 AM
GUEST 12 Jul 14 - 01:04 PM
Big Al Whittle 12 Jul 14 - 06:15 PM
GUEST 12 Jul 14 - 06:54 PM
GUEST,Anne Neilson 12 Jul 14 - 07:33 PM
GUEST,Gerry 12 Jul 14 - 08:52 PM
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Subject: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: houghmagandie
Date: 07 Jun 07 - 06:14 PM

Hi,
The third verse of "Buddy Can you Spare a Dime" starts:
'Say don't you remember, they called me Al,
I was Al all time.'
Why did they call him Al? As the bridge that precedes this verse is about fighting in World war One, was Al perhaps a nickname for American soldiers in WW1, something like Tommy for British soldiers?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a D
From: Lanfranc
Date: 07 Jun 07 - 06:30 PM

Could it be after Al Bowlly, who recorded the song way back when?

But then, when Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee recorded the song, they sang "Al", too.

Maybe it's just because Al rhymes with pal.

Maybe only E Y "Yip" Harburg (who wrote the lyrics) knew, and he isn't around to tell.

Al(an)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a D
From: GUEST,JTT
Date: 07 Jun 07 - 07:24 PM

He was a time-traveller. Later, he would be a friend of Paul Simon's.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 07 Jun 07 - 11:21 PM

It's always been my impression that "Al" is one of those diminutives that in early 20th century American culture was for some reason associated both with 'type A' and hale-fellow-well-met personalities, the 'hands-on boss' type. I can't think of any other examples off the top of my head, but I think that's how it would have been understood in the '30's.

A boss named 'Rudy' or 'Bing' just wouldn't be that same gung-ho, back-slapping guy.

(By the way, I believe the lyric is, "IT was Al all the time" - in other words, he was in great demand).

(And they 'called [him] Al' because he was a regular guy made good; not some high-falutin' Allan or Alexander or Alphonse or Aloysius).


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a D
From: GUEST,houghmagandie
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 03:20 AM

Dear meself,
You're right about it being "It was Al all the time" - I made two typos! I like your idea that Al was an all-purpose hale-fellow-well-met name. Another example from that era (and later) would be "Mac", as in "Have you got a light, Mac?".
Dear JTT,
As regards Al being a pal of Paul Simon's, I wonder if the songwriter really was referring to Buddy Can You Spare a Dime or to a common source - Al as pal?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 10:51 AM

I suppose I always in the back of my mind thought of Al Capone, and his fall from grace after having thousands of fawning friends and apparent admirers. the truth is of course, that there were dozens of Al's - people who thought their life had some sort of dignity, and the Great Crash of the stockmarket simply swept away their pretensions of having made some headway in society.

Al - glad not to live in such harsh times.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: RTim
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 11:39 AM

"Al" does of course rhyme with "Pal"!

Tim


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a D
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 11:57 AM

Yeah, you can't discount the rhyming factor...my husband thinks it was just the fact that "you knew me well enough to call me by a nickname" seemed everyone in the service had one...I've always thought it should have been "Pal" instead of "Al" every time even though that would mean it rhymed with itself.
    Please use a consistent name when you post. Anonymous posts risk deletion. Thanks.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 12:04 PM

I don't know - I think 'Al' was a little more than JUST a 'pal' - he was something of a big-shot, although of the democratic variety. He was the kind of 'pal' you'd go to if you needed a job, or a small loan, or advice ...


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a D
From: GUEST,JTT
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 12:15 PM

Houghmagandie, I'd always wondered the same - if Paul Simon's reference was to that historic Al.

For me, the song changed its meaning as I matured. As a child, I thought the singer had been a wealthy man who paid for the building of giant structures; when I got into the workforce I saw it as the destruction of the working man's dignity - once he'd been proud to build the great structures of New York; now he's queueing on a breadline, thankful for a bowl of soup, but enraged at the profiteering that's sent him there and now requires him to beg.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Mrrzy
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 12:34 PM

I think it had more to do with using the nickname when you don't actually know the person well enough... I remember when Dad was killed (his name had been Albert) and Reagan sent a fake condolence note calling him Al, which we all found completely insulting. But the simplest explanation etc - if it was an Al singing the song... makes sense to me.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Amos
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 12:46 PM

They called him Al because it was his nickname. The generic US equivalent for Tommy, as a handle for a soldier, was not Al, but Joe, or G.I. Joe.


A


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 01:01 PM

It was not Al Smith.

It says something about us that one thinks of Al Capone before he thinks of Al Smith- if he thinks of him at all.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a D
From: DADGBE
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 01:07 PM

I asked that question of Yip Harburg when we met in the late 1970s. He said that it was for the rhyme only. It wasn't a reference to any specific person.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 02:42 PM

I've just had another look at the lyrics, and it's changed my understanding of who the speaker is ... I'd forgotten about the indtroductory bit, in which he says he "followed the mob", doing what he was urged to do: "When there was earth to plow or guns to bear", he was "right there on the job" - as opposed to later in the song, where he was "the kid with the drum" (rather than, it seemed to me, the kid who was bearing the gun). So, now I've come 'round to the idea that Al was a regular working-Joe, rather than any kind of a mover or shaker.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST,Bill
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 06:22 PM

It was for Al Grossman, Bob Dylan's manager.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST,Al
Date: 08 Aug 07 - 02:03 PM

maybe al jolson who also recorded this song. anyway, if you are going to sing this song it would be better if your name is al. that way, you wouldn't have to answer so many questions.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 08 Aug 07 - 02:09 PM

Right, Mac


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST,anto
Date: 08 Aug 07 - 03:23 PM

al to my mind is short for alcohol, so give him a drink as well as a dime


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a D
From: Lanfranc
Date: 08 Aug 07 - 07:06 PM

OK

I'll 'fess up

It was me!

Al(an)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a D
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 08 Aug 07 - 11:09 PM

It was we who ploughed the prairies, built the cities where they trade,
Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railway laid
Now we stand outcast and starving midst the wonders we have made...

Wobbly songmaker Ralph Chaplin. I think Al knew the song.

Jon Bartlett


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST,Lighter at work
Date: 09 Aug 07 - 08:53 AM

Al was most likely the kid in Archibald Willard's iconic painting "Yankee Doodle":

http://www.americanrevolution.org/spirit.html


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST,Cool Beans (away from home)
Date: 09 Aug 07 - 08:55 AM

I think the confusion about Al's status comes from him singing "Once I built a railroad...Once I built a tower. He's just a wokring stiff but in his mind he takes responsibility for whatever project he's working on. Not a bad attitude to have.
P.S. I'm at Augusta guitar week (Elkins WV) where Mary Flower is teaching us her arrangement of this very song.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Barry Finn
Date: 09 Aug 07 - 09:23 AM

If your gonna be looking at arrangements of this a few others who do wonders with the use of minors to look at would be 'Spanky & Our Gang's' (remember them from the 60's) intro & Joe Hickerson's rendition of this.
Always loved singing this song, so much of all the Al's of the working world in it.

Barry


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Cool Beans
Date: 09 Aug 07 - 01:17 PM

Joe Hickerson's here, too. Just saw him at lunch.
CB at Augusta


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 09 Aug 07 - 01:49 PM

If you want to here my version of the song, you can on volume one of the Tap & Spile (Grimsby) charity double CD. More info here.

DC


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Donuel
Date: 10 Aug 07 - 10:14 AM

As told by the widow of the author and composer of 'Buddy can you spare a dime, "He was one of the few people who refused to testify and name people the House UNAMERICAN Activities Committee, and was blackballed as a possible Commie"

In a career spanning over fifty years, E. Y. "Yip" Harburg (1896-1981), lyricist and poet, wrote the words to over 600 songs, including all of the lyrics in the 1939 motion picture classic The Wizard of Oz, which featured the Oscar-winning "Over the Rainbow," which was voted Number One Song of the 20th Century in a 2001 poll conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Recording Industry Association of America and Best Film Song of All Time by the American Film Institute in 2004. Yip also wrote the immortal standards "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" "April in Paris" and "It's Only a Paper Moon."

Known as "Broadway's social conscience," Yip's greatest stage musicals were Bloomer Girl (1944) and Finian's Rainbow (1947). During his prolific career as a lyricist, Yip worked with over fifty composers including Harold Arlen, Jay Gorney, Vernon Duke, Burton Lane, Jerome Kern, Jule Styne, Johnny Green, Dana Suesse, Earl Robinson, Sammy Fain, Arthur Schwartz and Philip Springer. Yip's lyrics have been sung by a galaxy of artists from Judy Garland to Bert Lahr to Lena Horne to Eva Cassidy.

Following Yip's life, The Yip Harburg Foundation was created to promote educational opportunity, social and economic justice, world peace and Yip's artistic legacy.

Spare a Dime is one of my favorite tunes which I play on the cello with deep feeling.

And yes Al does rhyme with pal.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Flash Company
Date: 10 Aug 07 - 10:34 AM

I guess that Al was probably used because it rhymed with pal, I can't think of a way to make Joe work, and I can usually accomodate most things in a lyric (albeit in Parody).
Always liked Crosby's version of this best,

FC


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Subject: RE: Who was Al in "BROTHER, Can You Spare a Dime?"
From: SharonA
Date: 10 Aug 07 - 01:24 PM

Donuel, is it possible to play [on] the cello without deep feeling? It's too beautiful an instrument to sound shallow when played by anyone, even a first-year student.

But back to the subject:

Please, folks, the title of the song is "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" NOT "Buddy"! Brother, brother, brother. *end of mini-rant*

I prefer Rudy Vallee's version of the song to Bing Crosby's. Seems the older I get (and the more I read about what a pr*ck the man was), the less I care for Crosby's song-stylings.

Judy Collins's version is simply dreadful. I'm not familiar with Mary Flower's version, but for me the song loses a lot of power when sung by a female. (Ooooh, how un-P.C. of me as a fellow female!) Sorry, ladies, but this is a song that needs to be sung by a man. Not just any man, either, but one with a gruff voice to offset the tone of the lyrics -- otherwise the whole thing comes off as sounding whiney and self-pitying. The character "Al" is obviously not a whiner, but a hard-as-nails "regular Joe" who is angry and weary, betrayed and bewildered by the things American government and industry have done to him.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a D
From: Leadbelly
Date: 10 Aug 07 - 02:08 PM

This was found on www.fortunecity.com. Maybe of interest although doesn't explain Al. Manfred

    In "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime," Harburg creates an Everyman narrator for his song, a person who has built railroads, skyscrapers,. and tilled the fields. This person has contributed to the vast bounty of the land (through his plow) and kept faith with the promise of the land by bearing guns for it in time of war. There is even a veiled allusion to the mytheme of manifest destiny when the narrator tries to understand how, after he has helped build a dream of "peace and glory ahead," he can now be standing in a breadline. And there is a somewhat ironic allusion to the patriot's mytheme in the lines where he describes the half-million "boots" that went slogging through hell "Full of that Yankee Doodle-de-dum." This last line would remind listeners of the old Revolutionary War song, and also of George M. Cohan's "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and his "Over There." The allusion is veiled enough that Harburg wouldn't necessarily bring down the wrath of the man who once "owned Broadway" but the line serves as a mild indictment of the patriotism that swept us into war but seems not to be reciprocal. Harburg has said of his narrator that he isn't bitter, "He's bewildered. Here is a man who had built his faith and hope in this country. . . . Then came the crash. Now he can't accept the fact that the bubble has burst. He still believes. He still has faith. He just doesn't understand what could have happened to make everything go so wrong" (quoted in 1971, Green 69).
    Timothy Scheurer, Born in the USA, Jackson, Mississippi, 1991, pp. 118-119.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST,Anne Tait
Date: 05 Jun 09 - 11:34 PM

Before I truly listened to all the lyrics of this haunting and powerful song, I thought it was a former tycoon talking, who built a railroad and then was ruined in the depression. But no, it's the disillusioned plea of a worker, soldier, follower - a guy that everybody liked and knew by his nickname ["it was Al all the time"] who's been rejected by the system he believed in, that promised so much and then left him penniless.

Anne Tait, Toronto, Canada. film producer, writer.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: olddude
Date: 05 Jun 09 - 11:38 PM

It was Al Capone
he wanted to be in the song


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Joe_F
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 09:50 PM

The people quoting the song in this thread, and most of those dredged up by Google, make it "_they_ called me Al". However, the DigiTrad, _Rise Up Singing_, and a fair number of Google hits make it "_you_ called me Al", and that seems to me more likely to be the original.

In that last stanza, we are to imagine (I have always thought) that the singer, reduced to beggary, has happened on an former friend (army buddy, more likely than not), in view of the preceding stanza) & asked *him* for a dime. The friend used to call him Al because they were on first-name terms, but now he pretends not to recognize him. As Mr Jimmy Cox put it some years earlier, nobody knows you when you're down and out.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST,Ken Brock
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 11:51 PM

I have always assumed that Paul Simon's "Al" is a reference/ tribute to the one in "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime" as much as the line "His name was Speedo but his Christian name was Mr. Earl" (in "Was A Sunny Day") is a tribute to the DooWop of groups like the Cadillacs.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a D
From: Stringsinger
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 07:53 PM

The reason it's "brother" is to then contrast the name with the end of the song which says,
"Buddy, can you spare a dime?" The "Buddy" part makes the stark observation of the
words of a panhandler. The removal of the term "buddy" from "brother" means the distance
poverty brings to people during a Depression. The "buddy" is a desperate plea. It used to be "Al all the time". Al was everyone's friend until he became destitute. That's what economic collapse does to a country as we are about to find out.

Yip was the most subtle of lyricists.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST,LIGHTER
Date: 07 Jun 09 - 08:34 PM

The word "buddy" was associated with World War I in an unprecedented way. Veterans particularly called each other "buddy," at least in the media stereotype.

Whatever else "buddy" might suggest, Al is invoking that relationship. Unsuccessfully.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 08 Jun 09 - 10:18 AM

Another example from that era (and later) would be "Mac", as in "Have you got a light, Mac?".

No, but I've got a dark brown overcoat!

I'll get my fedora!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 08 Jun 09 - 01:49 PM

Could it have referred to Al Smith, who was elected Governor of New York four times, and was the Democratic U.S. presidential candidate in 1928? He was the first Roman Catholic and Irish-American to run for President as a major party nominee. He lost the election to Herbert Hoover. He then became president of the Empire State, Inc. and was instrumental in getting the Empire State Building built at the onset of the Great Depression. Could that be the "tower" in the song?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 08 Jun 09 - 03:50 PM

Well, if it wasn't Al Smith (as I just noted a comment in an earlier posting), perhaps it was Al Fresco, the noted outdoor busker of days gone by...


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 08 Jun 09 - 05:00 PM

Skiming through this revived thread just now, I noticed weelittledrummer back on 08 Jun 07 writing about how "the Great Crash of the stockmarket simply swept away ... pretensions of having made some headway in society" and adding a comment about being "glad not to live in such harsh times".

Pretty ironic, considering...


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a D
From: Stringsinger
Date: 08 Jun 09 - 06:47 PM

Nor was it Al Bino, Al Fresco, Al-Lemande, Al Truism, or Al Be Damned.

It was the American working-class "everyman". And it rhymed with "pal".


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST,John Amendall
Date: 09 Jul 13 - 02:18 AM

I think Yip reached for a rhyme. The term 'mac' refers to a rough character. Pimps and other lumpenproletariat types, like Mack the Knive, were known as macks in the US by the late nineteenth century and onward.

The song in question refers specifically to the veterans of the American Expeditionary Force who fought in Europe in 1917-18. Promises were made to these veterans; promises were broken. And by the time they built their Hooverville in Washington DC in 1932, they were known as the 'Bonus Army,' because they had been promised a 'bonus' for their overseas service (the bonus was not set to come due until 1945 when many of the veterans would be dead).

When General MacArthur and his adjutants, Majors Eisenhower and Patton destroyed their encampment (Patton actually led six tanks against them) and drove them out of DC, order was restored in the republic.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST,John Amendall
Date: 09 Jul 13 - 02:21 AM

I recommend the version done by Judy Roderick. For my money, it is peerless.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: voyager
Date: 09 Jul 13 - 09:09 AM

Yip Harburg was writing about the future.

'Al' was Al Gore after he lost the election to Bush.
He was seen mumbling these lyrics walking on Pennsylvania Ave. in DC.

'Say don't you remember, they called me Al, I was Al all time.'


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 09 Jul 13 - 09:59 AM

Was that what they mean by an Al-Gore-Rhythm?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Elmore
Date: 09 Jul 13 - 10:15 AM

My favorite version of the song was one that I only heard twice in the late sixties. It was at Gerde's Folk City, performed by Dominic Chianese, who much later was known for his portrayal of Uncle Junior on Sopranos.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 09 Jul 13 - 12:02 PM

Added verse in 1970, E. Y. Harburg:

Once we had a Roosevelt
Praise the Lord
Life had meaning and hope
Now we're stuck with Nixon, Agnew, Ford
Brother can you spare a rope?

In Wiki article on the song.

See thread 43638, "Depression Era Songs," for lyrics and comment.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 09 Jul 13 - 12:57 PM

It was an upper class Englishman

Aloysius Olther-Thyme......one of the Leamington Spa Olther-Thymes.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST,mayomick
Date: 09 Jul 13 - 01:38 PM

Stringsilver - Re buddy and brother .

I was surprised when I first came to Dublin from England the way that working class Dubs would often call friends and strangers alike "buddy" or "bud". I thought people were taking it from US television or from movies until I heard them sometimes pronounce the word "brother" as "brudah" or "bruddy" sometimes leaving the "r" out so that it came out close to "bud" or "buddy".


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Will Fly
Date: 09 Jul 13 - 02:22 PM

Al rhymes with pal. End of story.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 09 Jul 13 - 02:41 PM

Oh, don't be such a party pooper, Will.

The story of Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime will NEVER end

And a baby when it's sleeping has no cryen


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 09 Jul 13 - 02:45 PM

No one seems to take the composer's word. See previous posts. Al rhymes with pal.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Will Fly
Date: 09 Jul 13 - 04:45 PM

Party pooping is my métier, Michael...

Actually, I've been listening to - and performing - this song for over 45 years, and its meaning is crystal clear - to me at least..


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 09 Jul 13 - 07:29 PM

really - he could have called him anything like Desmond for instance

Say don't you remember when they called me Desmond
It was Desmond all the time
They called me Desmond
An I used to live in Jesmond
Not far from Newcastle on Tyne


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Will Fly
Date: 10 Jul 13 - 08:36 AM

And, if Desmond had been abbreviated to Dez, it could have been:

Say don't you remember - they called me Dez
It was Dez all the time
Say don't you remember - I wore a fez,
Effendi can you spare a dime?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST,mayomick
Date: 02 Sep 13 - 05:47 AM

Ring Lardner's You Know Me Al was written in 1916 .Harburg would have certainly been aware of the novel ; the title would have resonated with listeners of the depression era song. A cartoon based on the novel scripted by Lardner was syndicated in over 700 newspapers and magazines throughout the twenties .
Lardner's baseball novel is written in the form of letters from professional baseball player, Jack Keefe, to his friend Al Blanchard. It can be read here:


http://www.eldritchpress.org/rl/unomeal.htm


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 02 Sep 13 - 10:21 AM

The story about Paul Simon's song, on the other hand, is that the composer Pierre Boulez (or possibly Hector Berlioz) came to dinner with Paul Simon and his wife Karen (or possibly Carol). They hit it off and had a very nice evening, and as he left Boulez (or Berlioz) said "Thanks for inviting me, Al - and tell Betty it was a lovely meal." Hence "I can call you Betty, and Betty, when you call me you can call me Al".


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 02 Sep 13 - 10:23 AM

That was from memory. Googling clarifies: it was Boulez, Paul Simon's wife is called Peggy, and apparently it was a genuine mishearing on Pierre B.'s part.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Stringsinger
Date: 02 Sep 13 - 11:03 AM

Obviously Al was Everyman in the bread line.

So in reference to the upcoming depression and more bread lines:

Al be seeing you (in all the old familiar places)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Jul 14 - 01:04 PM

Al as in Allied forces, i.e. britan france canada america. the refrence to the bread line is about the forgotten veterans who returning home are left to scratch like every one else who broke there backs making the nation. i think the message is for all the grate we've done were still poor and unknown; and in times of poverty friend is a hard word.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 12 Jul 14 - 06:15 PM

say don't you remember when called me Ant
it was Ant all the time
Now flippin' heck!
They've started calling me Dec
Ain't it all a blooming shime!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Jul 14 - 06:54 PM

Al - glad not to live in such harsh times. wrote Al Whittle (I don't think he was big then) in 2007. Don't tempt fate again.

Buddy was obviously Mr Holly. He suffered in the crash, though much later.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST,Anne Neilson
Date: 12 Jul 14 - 07:33 PM

My favourite version of the song is from Fred Hellerman (of the Weavers) accompanied only by his own guitar. It was all of the following by turns -- emotional, intense, powerful and desperate -- and I always took it that Al was a synonym for The Common Man.

(Wish I could do a clicky link -- maybe a kind friend could oblige?)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 12 Jul 14 - 08:52 PM

OK, so it was Al because of the rhyme with pal --- but how could Harburg have passed up the chance to rhyme "spare a dime" with "paradigm"?


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