A poor man’s Shangri-La

Count your ribs and say your prayers and get to sleep …

Across 110th Street,” Bobby Womack
Common People,” Pulp
Hard Knock Life,” Jay Z
Hard Times,” Bob Dylan

Hard Times,” Eastmountainsouth
Hard Times,” Emmylou Harris
“Hard Times,” The Lost Dogs
Hard Times,” Mavis Staples
Hole in the Bucket,” Spearhead
Homeless,” Paul Simon
“How Can a Poor Man Face Such Times and Live?” David Lindley & Hani Naser
How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?” Bruce Springsteen
Hungry Heart,” Bruce Springsteen
Hungry Like the Wolf,” Duran Duran
Kill the Poor,” Dead Kennedys
Living for the City,” Stevie Wonder
Lord, Help the Poor & Needy,” Cat Power
Mr. President (Have Pit on the Working Man),” Randy Newman
Mr. President (Have Pity on the Working Man),” Sam Bush
Mr. Wendal,” Arrested Development
No Woman No Cry,” Bob Marley
The Poor House,” The Boxmasters
“Poor Man’s House,” Maura O’Connell
Poor Man’s House,” Patty Griffin
Poor Man’s Shangri-La,” Ry Cooder
Poor Old Tom,” Peter Case
Stay Hungry,” Talking Heads
Talking About a Revolution,” Tracy Chapman
Waiting for the Great Leap Forward,” Billy Bragg
Working Class Hero,” John Lennon

This list got away from me a bit. I started with songs with the word “poor” in the title, then added words like homeless, hungry, broke, etc. And then it just kind of spiraled into a general songs-about-poverty list, at which point it became hard to know where to stop, because not having enough — not having what you need, let alone what you want — is a pretty huge human theme, and thus a pretty huge theme in songs by humans.

So this list is a lot more arbitrary than the usual words-in-titles theme of this Friday music game. There are a bunch of songs in there that I couldn’t resist including — like “Living for the City,” “Working Class Hero,” “No Woman No Cry,” or “Talking About a Revolution.” But if I’m going to include the latter, then why not also Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” which is also a moving portrait of life in poverty.

But then “Fast Car” is just Chapman’s version of a Springsteen song — it’s “Thunder Road” from Mary’s perspective, or maybe even “Born to Run” from the other side of the river. So if we include that, then about half of Springsteen’s songs belong in the list too, as well as everybody else’s version of a Springsteen song (“Living on a Prayer,” “Don’t Stop Believing,” etc.). Yet I only wound up with one Bruce song in the list — “Hungry Heart,” because it had that word “hungry” in the title, and that song seems less appropriate to the topic than, say, “The Factory,” or “Used Cars,” or “Atlantic City,” or a dozen others.

Like I said, this list kind of got away from me.

The quote at the top is from Patty Griffin’s “Poor Man’s House” (lyrics here), a song that still manages to sneak up on me once in a while for the way it seems to get inside hopelessness and the way that the shamefulness of others gets transferred onto the poor.

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  • Love that Patty song so very much.  I just discovered Guy Clark’s “Homeless” recently, and it would fit in nicely here.  I have the tribute album version (http://www.amazon.com/This-Ones-For-Him-Tribute/dp/B0062U29Y2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350658974&sr=8-1&keywords=a+tribute+to+guy+clark)

  • Launcifer

    Dead End Street – The Kinks.

    We Gotta Get Out of this Place – The Animals.

    And, weirdly, this semi-satirical one: Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon – The Kinks.

  • Poor Mortal Lost” – This Ascension
    Good To Feel Hungry” – Blue Öyster Cult
    Hungry Boys” – Blue Öyster Cult
    Work For the Working Man” – Bon Jovi
    Working in the Coal Mine” – Harry Connick, Jr.

    And a slightly different kind of hardscrabble poverty:
    Gaza” – Marillion

  • Poverty”, Diana Jones
    “Stomp And Holler”, Hayes Carll
    “Hard Times”, Ryan Bingham
    “Beg for Broken Legs”, Ryan Bingham
    “No Money”, Kings of Leon
    “The New Timer”, Bruce Springsteen
    “Mansion on the Hill”, Bruce Springsteen
    “House and 90 Acres”, Chris Knight
    “If I Were You”, Chris Knight

  • Siobhan Duffey

    “Paradise” -John Prine. Often forgotten, but it’s about the crimes against nature and community by a gilded era baron whose estate is now open for tours that have nothing but condemnation for the union and populist enemies of the rich guy with a nice house.

    “It’s OK” -Frenchy and the Punk, though it’s on the Happy Madness album from when they were still The Gypsy Nomads. A song for the modern depression

    “Baba Yaga” -S.J. Tucker. Strictly speaking it’s about a bag lady who looks out for homeless teens, but that’s pretty prescient

    “The Receiving End of It All” -Streetlight Manifesto. I think it might be their Bruce Springstein song?

    “Robber Baron” and “Stakes and Torches” -Voltaire. They’re sort of companion songs.

  • thatotherjean

    About poverty, even if it isn’t in the title:

    Sixteen Tons – Tennessee Ernie Ford

    Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen – Paul Robeson

    Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out – Bessie Smith

    500 Miles (Away from Home) – Peter, Paul, and Mary

  • spinetingler

     the Del-Lords do a good “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?”

    Oh those 80’s fashions.

  • rizzo

    Yet another list that like half of the Dead’s songs would fit in with…

  • Dave Dick

    To Hell With Poverty! – Gang of Four
    Kill the Poor – Dead Kennedys
    Boys from the County Hell – The Pogues
    Other Side of Summer – Elvis Costello
    Working Poor – DSM-5 (local Omaha punk band)
    Billy Bragg – To Have and Have Not
    Somebody Got Murdered – The Clash
    53rd & 3rd – The Ramones
    God Damn Job – The Replacements

    And probably most of my music collection.

  • Sam Ashwell

    Strange Behaviour, Roots Manuva
    Alice in the Bacon Box, Lucy Ward
    Inner City Pressure, Flight of the Conchords
    The Projects, Handsome Boy Modelling School
    Chant of a Poor Man, Leftfield
    Do Re Mi, Woody Guthrie (and about half the rest of Woody Guthrie)
    Senegal Fast Food, Amadou & Mariam feat. Manu Chao
    Them Belly Full, Bob Marley
    Whitey’s On The Moon, Gil-Scott Heron
    Old Molly Metcalfe, Jake Thackray
    The Maid of Llanwellyn, Kate Rusby
    Everybody Knows, Leonard Cohen
    One Good Night, Nucleus Roots

  • Vermic

    I tried to narrow my list to songs where poverty/neediness is part of the title, regardless of the subject matter.  Sorry, Beastie Boys’ “Johnny Ryall”!

    “All His Suits Are Torn”, NoFX
    “Broke”, Whole Wheat Bread
    “Deadbeat Holiday”, Green Day
    “Hard Luck Story”, Men At Work
    “Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe”, Whale
    “Homeless”, Paul Simon
    “I Will Buy You a New Life”, Everclear
    “Illegal Alien”, Genesis (*)
    “Poor House”, Traveling Wilburys
    “Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto”, Mojo Nixon
    “Unemployed Boyfriend”, Everclear
    We could probably do a whole installment of songs about crappy jobs.  I passed over a lot of those as I was skimming my playlist.

    (*) Not all illegal aliens are poor, but I shall assume the protagonist of the song is.  We are, at any rate, assured that being him is no fun.

  • Launcifer

    Just occurred to me that this one fits, too:- The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel.

  • “Steve Forbert’s Midsummer Night’s Toast”

  • Theo Axner

    53rd & 3rd – the Ramones
    All I’ve Got Is Gone – Ernest V. Stoneman and His Dixie Mountaineers
    Allmosor – De Lyckliga Kompisarna
    The Ballad of Hollis Brown – Bob Dylan (2 versions)
    The Ballad of Hollis Brown – Iggy & the Stooges
    Big Rock Candy Mountain – Harry McClintock
    Blod,  Svett & Tårar – Strebers
    Bread Line Blues – Slim Smith
    Euskefeurat – Euskefeurat
    En Fattig Trubadur – Cornelis Vreeswijk
    God Damn Job – the Replacements
    Hard Time Killing Floor Blues – Chris Thomas King
    Hard Times – Bob Dylan
    Help the Homeless – Johnny Thunders
    Help the Homeless – the Screwballs
    Hustlin’ Woman Blues – Memphis Minnie
    Här Komma De Fattiga Sjungaremän – Folk & Rackare
    I Ain’t Got No Home (in This World Anymore) – Woody Guthrie
    I’m a Worried Man – Johnny Cash
    In Between Jobs – Todd Snider
    Kalle Holm – Cornelis Vreeswijk
    Looking for a Job – Todd Snider
    Minimum Wage Strike – David Rovics
    Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out – Bessie Smith
    North Country Blues – Bob Dylan
    A Nurse’s Life Is Full of Woe – Billy Bragg
    Only a Hobo – Bob Dylan
    Only a Hobo – Rod Stewart
    Only a Pawn in Their Game – Bob Dylan
    Polaren Pär Hos Det Sociala – Cornelis Vreeswijk
    Poor Boy Blues – Bob Dylan
    Poor Man, Rich Man – Dave  McCarn
    The Preacher & The Slave – Will Kaufman
    Something Broken in the Promised Land – Wayne Kramer
    Somliga Går Med Trasiga Skor – Cornelis Vreeswijk
    The Rogue’s March (Poor Old Soldier) – Kerfuffle
    To Have and to Have Not – Billy Bragg
    Ung & Sänkt – Ebba Grön
    Workingman’s Blues #2 – Bob Dylan

  • interleaper

     Tobacco Road – Jefferson Airplane https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FyJ4FGfOVc (also Shocking Blue https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hhcNMu40DI )
    Work Song – Nina Simone
    Drip Drip Drip – Chumbawamba https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4o5kDgjEBHU
    The Big Issue – Chumbawamba https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJH9q15s2cc
       (and Chumbawamba generally)
    Sorrow/Babylon – Home Service https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjOpa5UBOhs
    Streets Of London – Sinead O’Connor
    Four Loom Weaver – Maddy Prior & June Tabor https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DakcxsncHfs
    The Testimony of Patience Kershaw – The Unthanks http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmhACB1ZPQM
    The Diggers Song – Attila The Stockbroker https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJYUz31i_Go

  • Oh, dear.  Between the title and the subject, I’ve suddenly earwomed myself with a mashup: “Shangri-li, shangri-la, life goes on, brah!  Lala how the life goes on….”

  • Amaryllis

    Bone Broke – The White Stripes
     Busted – Hazel Dickens
    Dirty Old Town – Ewan MacColl
    Dreams Are Made of Money – Sam Carter
    (When you’re in the red and you dream of black, dreams are made of money. When your head’s full of worries as you hit the sack, dreams are made of money.)
    Fortune My Foe – Ronn MacFarlane
    Hard Times – Gillian Welch
    Hard Times Come Again No More – The Chieftains With Paolo Nutini
    Hard Times in New York Town – Bob Dylan
    Hard Times of Old England* – The Copper Family
    Homeless – Paul Simon
    The Housewife’s Lament – The Washington Revels
    (Oh life is a toil and love is a trouble, Beauty will fade and riches will flee, Pleasures they dwindle and prices they double, And nothing is as I would wish it to be…it totally counts.)
    How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live – Bruce Springsteen
    I Wish Pay Friday Would Come – Louis Killen
    (The grocer, the butcher, the shoemaker too, they all came smiling in, And what was my poor wife to do, but tell them she had no tin?)
    Idle Time – Jez Lowe
    (The rent collector is this town’s only worker, and his youngest girl is my heart’s only joy. But her father says keep your hands off my daughter, until you find some gainful employ.
    Nae Guid Luck About the Hoose – The High Level Ranters
    Nee Gud Luck – The Whisky Priests
    Not Much Luck in Our House – The Unthanks
    The Oakey Strike Evictions – The Whisky Priests
    Po’ Lazarus – James Carter and the Prisoners
    (And Laz’us’ sister, she couldn’t go to the funeral, didn’t have no shoes.)
    Poor Little Lamb – Tom Waits
    Poor Poor Pitiful Me – Warren Zevon
    Poor Wayfaring Stranger – Norma Waterson and Eliza Carthy
    Rag and bone – The White Stripes
    Red Dirt Girl – Emmylou Harris
    (But there won’t be a notice in the news of the world about the life and the death of a red dirt girl…)
    Shattered – The Rolling Stones
    Everybody’s talking about schmatte schmatte schmatte– I can’t give it  away on 7th Avenue! This town’s wearing tatters!)
    Time to Remember the Poor – Waterson:Carthy
    The Way It Goes – Gillian Welch
    Weevils In the Flour – The Ragged Band
    (Dole bread is bitter bread, bitter bread and sour. There’s grief in the taste of it, and weevils in the flour)
    Welfare Music – the Bottle Rockets
    (Takes two to make three but one ain’t here)

    * may be mitigated, apparently, by the presence of the Hard Cheese of Old England:

    There’s Cheddar and Cheshire and Lancashire too,
    Leicester’s bright orange and Stilton is blue.
    It waxes so lyrical, what can you do but sing,

    Oh the hard cheese of old England,
    In old England very hard cheese.

  • friendly reader

    “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” – O Brother, Where Art Thou?
    “No Money” – Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
    “Po’ Lazarus” – O Brother, Where Art Thou?

    I imagine most of the soundtrack to “Prince of Egypt” probably qualifies for this list as well, by virtue of the subject matter. And Lupe Fiasco’s “End of the World” explicitly throws in support for the Occupy Movement. That’s it for my quick look-through, if I come up with more, I’ll post later.

  • dr ngo

    Buddy, Can You Spare A Dime?

  • D9000

    We Gotta Get Out of This Place – The Animals
    Hold On to What? – The Beautiful South
    Dead End Street – The Kinks
    Hope Street – The Levellers
    Common People – Pulp
    The Little Beggar Girl – Richard & Linda Thompson
    Al Bowlly’s in Heaven – Richard Thompson       http://youtu.be/4Dr8Z2SPWm8
    King of the Road – Roger Miller
    Up the Junction – Squeeze

  • reynard61

    @ dr ngo: It’s “Brother, can you spare a dime?”; but, yeah, why Fred didn’t have this one in the list is either a deep mystery or a huge error.

    One Meatball. Not sure who’s doing the singing. (Note: The version that I’m familiar with has “…and no spaghetti.” whenever the eponymous lyric is uttered.)

  • Skiriki

    Whut? No one has listed Phil Collins’ “Another Day in Paradise”?

  • Carstonio

    I chuckled when I read the post title, because in my teens a certain radio personality used to employ the term “Shangri-La” as a euphemism for sexual satisfaction. I wonder what engineers thought of his meaning for “hydraulics.”