Musician and folklorist Bill Rossiter will present “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” songs and stories from the Great Depression.
Among the marks left on our nation by the Great Depression of the “Dirty Thirties” was a kind of “gallows humor,” a sense that we could keep from crying if we could just keep laughing. Popular radio music sturdily ignored the Depression, assuring us that “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries,” and “We’re in the Money.” But the songs that never made the charts, sung by the parlor, rural and small-town musicians of the time, saw the Depression for what it was and poked wicked fun at Roosevelt, Wall Street, the American dream itself, and, especially, Herbert Hoover: “Look here, Hoover, see what you done; You went off fishin’, let the country go to ruin.” Another song scolded the country folks who deserted their farms for factory jobs during the 1920s: “Suits them people and it serves them fine, for thinkin’ that the mill was a darn gold mine.”
“Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” views the Depression, not through history and literature, but through songs and “illiterature,” looking at what it meant to the working folk most affected by it. Bill Rossiter, a professional entertainer, is a retired instructor of literature and folklore at Flathead Valley Community College. He currently presents several programs for the Speakers Bureau, featuring songs of the homestead era and songs of the Civil War.
The program is free and open to the public.
Partial funding for this Humanities Montana program is provided by a legislative grant from Montana’s Cultural Trust and from the National Endowment for the Humanities.