1932 #1: Depression music

ten cents in 1932 is about two dollars today

Cole porter
Cole Porter

Here are the songs that reached #1 in 1932 in the United States. From A Century of Pop Music by Joel Whitburn: “The record industry underwent an almost total collapse to the point of selling only six million discs in 1932 – compared to the peak of 140 million just five years earlier.”

The growth of radio, in addition to the economic woes, contributed to this phenomenon. Some of the songs reflect the difficulties of the era.

Night and Day– Leo Reisman with Fred Astaire. 10 weeks at #1. A song by Cole Porter from the musical The Gay Divorcee. I became much more familiar with the works of Porter after I bought the original Red Hot + Blue album in 1991. This song was also covered by Peter Sprague and Rebecca Jade on Planet Cole Porter
In A Shanty In Old Shanty Town – Ted Lewis and his band, 10 weeks at #1

Please – Bing Crosby with Anson Weeks and his orchestra, 6 weeks at #1
Paradise – Leo Reisman and his orchestra with Frances Maddux, vocals, 6 weeks at #1. From the film, A Woman Commands

We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye – Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians with Carmen Lombardo, vocal, 5 weeks at #1

Paradise – Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians with Carmen Lombardo, vocals, 3 weeks at #1
All Of Me – Paul Whiteman and his orchestra, with Mildred Bailey, vocals, 3 weeks at #1. The song was written by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons. It was given the Towering Song Award by the Songwriters Hall of Fame as a result of the countless covers, including by Frank Sinatra and Willie Nelson


All Of Me – Louis Armstrong, 2 weeks at #1
Dinah – Bing Crosby with the Mills Brothers, 2 weeks at #1
Say It Isn’t So – George Olsen with Paul Small, vocals 2 weeks at #1. Written by Irving Berlin
Lullabye of the Leaves – George Olsen, 2 weeks at #1

Too Many Tears – Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians with Carmen Lombardo, vocal, 2 weeks at #1
River, Stay Away From My Door – Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians with Kate Smith, 2 weeks at #1
Brother, Can You Spare A Dime? – Rudy Vallee, 2 weeks at #1. From  Wikipedia: “Written by lyricist Yip Harburg and composer Jay Gorney,… [it] was part of the 1932 musical revue Americana; the melody is based on a Russian-Jewish lullaby. The song tells the story of the universal everyman, whose honest work towards achieving the American dream has been foiled by the economic collapse.”
Brother, Can You Spare A Dime? – Bing Crosby, 2 weeks at #1

Reisman, Whiteman, Olsen were on Victor
Lewis, Armstrong, and Vallee were on Columbia, though I also found the Armstrong recording on Okeh
Crosby and Lombardo were on Brunswick, except the Kate Smith cut, on Columbia

Too soon, Boston Globe, too soon

1861, 1919, 1932, 1968, 2020

too soon

The Boston Globe has attempted to make us feel better about 2020. “The news that the president himself had contracted the coronavirus, just days after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg triggered a high-stakes Supreme Court battle in the middle of a global pandemic that has upended nearly every aspect of modern life…

“‘Is this the most deranged year ever to occur in American history because it certainly feels that way?’ The story was published on October 6. Too soon. There were 12 full weeks of crazy to come, including a sure-to-be-contentious election that won’t be settled on November 4, and maybe not by November 10.

For instance, one of the other contenders is 1861, “the year that the country fractured into the bloody Civil War… The beginning of the war was partly the result of the tumultuous 1860 election… It is encouraging that this year the United States has not plunged into literal war with itself — yet.” Give it time. External war, while still going on, seems less in the forefront than the potential for domestic disturbances.

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” The Second Coming by poet William Butler Yeats, 1919 

In 1919, “the country had just emerged from a gruesome global war, and a deadly flu pandemic was killing millions of people around the world. President Woodrow Wilson suffered a severe stroke and became incapacitated…” 2020 pandemic: check.

“In the same year, white citizens led a series of racial pogroms that decimated Black communities, partly in response to Black soldiers’ demands for equality after fighting for American democracy abroad.” A different version of racial strife is taking place this year.

The Great Depression

By 1932, “the Great Depression had reached its peak, with about a quarter of Americans out of work and virtually no federal aid. Families were losing their homes and desperate for food. It was an election year, with Franklin D. Roosevelt running against Herbert Hoover.

“There was also climate disaster happening… In the Dust Bowl, severe drought caused farmlands to literally blow away, killing people and crops and leading to massive migrations.” We have in 2020 record wildfires in the West, hurricanes in the Southeast.

“Against that backdrop, extremism was on the rise worldwide. The Nazi Party became the strongest party in the German government in July elections.” Extremism around the world – we have that in 2020.

And of course, 1968, which featured the Vietnam War raging, including grave atrocities. Student protests erupted across the country. The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy dashed the sense of hope.

Here’s the real question

So does this mean that if we get a really sucky year every once in a while we’ll be inoculated for a while? History is mixed. Another year of civil war in 1862. Statistical somewhat less violence against black people plus Women’s suffrage in 1920.

The New Deal started in 1933 under FDR, even as the markers for World War II began to build. And I remember 1969 as nearly as contentious as 1968, with Nixon in the White House rather than LBJ, but we went to the moon.

Tell me that 2021 will be better. Lie if necessary. Oh, and you still have until the end of the month to complete the decennial Census. So do the damn  Census. And vote, FCOL. I’m thinking in-person but early, the week before November 3. 2020 may suck, but I’m trying my best…


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