On NPR, Daniel Schorr sang “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”


Daniel Schorr in his later NPR days

I waited all weekend for it, and it finally came on Sunday morning.  It was my most vivid Daniel Schorr memory.

Though he started his broadcast career when I was two years old, and I knew of his CBS career (especially the moment when he discovered, and read aloud in the midst of a broadcast, his own name on Richard Nixon’s enemies list), and I knew something of the controversy during his CNN says, I knew him most in his later years on NPR.  His death was sad…  there is simply no one else anywhere who brought the decades long context to his news reporting.

But it was one segment that I most vividly remember.  It aired in some very dark days of job loss in July, 2008.  The report included this paragraph:

Hard times may not be the most obvious topic for a joyous Independence Day Weekend. But with payrolls down another 62,000 in June and President Bush going to Japan to brood about economic conditions with others of the G-8 industrial powers, I have found myself reflecting on the recession – no, Depression, that I experienced in my youth.

At the end of the segment, he sang two verses of the depression-era song “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime.”

SCHORR: There’s one song over this three-quarters of a century that I can still remember from memory.
LIANE HANSEN: Really?
SCHORR: Yeah.
HANSEN: Which one?

Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad; now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;
Once I built a tower, now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And I was the kid with the drum!
Say, don’t you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.
Why don’t you remember, I’m your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

Liane Hanson re-played the segment on Sunday morning, in one of many remembrances of Daniel Schorr over the weekend on NPR.  It captures the anxiety of that era, and this, so vividly….

You can listen to the original piece, from 2008, here.  Listen to this weekend’s segment here, or just click below (it’s in the second half of the segment):

NPR Liane Hanson Remembers Daniel Schorr.

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