How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?

by Jon Mandle on April 29, 2006

This is the title of a 1929 song by Blind Alfred Reed that was covered by Ry Cooder on his first album. Bruce Springsteen now has a version that includes one original verse and three new ones, (apparently) written in preparation for his performance at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The key lyric:

He says “me and my old school pals had some might high times down here
And what happened to you poor black folks, well it just ain’t fair”
He took a look around gave a little pep talk, said “I’m with you” then he took a little walk
Tell me, how can a poor man stand such times and live?

It’s not included on his new cd, but is available (at a low bitrate), recorded live at one of his rehearsals, here (turn down your volume and stop the tracks that play automatically – then play the tune in the format of your choice.)

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Crooked Timber » » Napster
05.03.06 at 8:58 am



Doctor Memory 04.29.06 at 9:18 pm

The answer involves sideburns and kittens.


Tim Worstall 04.30.06 at 3:56 am

Well, Ry Cooder’s first solo album, yes. Not the first album he was on (was there anything he did before Captain Beefheart…ah, looking it up, The Rising Sons with Taj Mahal. Ain’t Wikipedia great?).


Oskar Shapley 04.30.06 at 7:48 am

Maybe the Not-so-wealthy Man should start blogging for ads & profit.


apple 04.30.06 at 8:24 am

Is this song about Ray Nagin?


Clayton 04.30.06 at 1:32 pm

I’ll have to wait to hear it, but I suspect I’ll wish that Bruce just settled for putting a copy of Ry Cooder’s version on the album.


serial catowner 04.30.06 at 4:12 pm

Looks like Springsteen just used the title. No way can you sing those verses to the tune of “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live”.

This was a popular song, a number of artists used the tune and theme but wrote some new words and title.


Cryptic Ned 04.30.06 at 5:46 pm

Is this song about Ray Nagin?

It could be about him, or other plutocrats like him.


joe 05.01.06 at 4:26 am

Blogging is great idea for not so wealthy man.Might be for profits.But it a famous song about Ray Nagin. As far as my memory is concerned.


rcs 05.01.06 at 10:32 am

This song went over BIG during Springsteen’s extended set at the New Orleans JazzFest last night. The new version directly alluded to Bush’s photo-op in Jackson Square (sorry, don’t remember the lyrics) and subsequent neglect.

As a side note, one of the aircraft-towed banners over the Fairground yesterday said “Impeach Bush.” If it had been up to the crowd I saw at the Cajun/Zydeco stage, he’d be packing his bags!


wcw 05.01.06 at 11:30 am

I’m surprised you linked to the Springsteen low-res promo, and not to the original. The quite fabulous original is off copyright and available for download for all. If you want really to be clever, you could post a Coralized version of a link directly to the mp3.

Also, it’d be a natty object lesson in the virtues of limited copyright. Post her up, kids.


Baracus Rugby 05.02.06 at 7:13 pm

Is this song about Ray Nagin?

No. At the concert, Bruce dedicated the song to President Bystander.


thom butler 05.04.06 at 9:48 am

Is this about Ray Nagin?

Does anybody actually watch the frigging news!?!?

Remember when dear president shrub brashly strolled out from behind the statue of Andrew Jackson and promised money and help? It’s almost a direct quote from one of shrubs remarks while on that infamous trip!!!

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