Ten Great Songs of Wealth and Poverty, Happiness and Having “Enough!”
In his new book, “The Psychology of Money,” Morgan Housel relates a story told by the late, great Jack Bogle, founder of Vanguard Funds.
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Jack joined author Joseph Heller at a party in the palatial home of a hedge fund manager.
This financial titan earned more money in a single day than Heller ever reaped from his classic, bestselling novel of men at war, “Catch-22.”
Amidst the splendor of the evening Heller remarked that he could always have something their host never could:
Ten Great Songs About Wealth And Poverty
Here are ten great songs about wealth and poverty, happiness and having enough:
1) The Folks Who Live On The Hill
A song of limited but passionate dreams,
Of love, marriage, home and family.
By a singer of prodigious talent but little renown.
David Allen, also known as David Allyn, was born Albert DiLello.
A friend and one-time colleague of Frank Sinatra.
“Boy singer” for Jack Teagarden and Boyd Raeburn.
As Sinatra was for Harry James and Tommy Dorsey.
But Allen was drafted.
Wounded in North Africa and treated with morphine,
Which began an opiate addiction that would poison his life.
His career was sidelined.
Greatness eluded him.
Despite the best efforts of Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis and Sammy Davis, Jr., to shepherd him to stardom.
His recorded output is meager, but there are shining moments.
Allen’s recording of this timeless Jerome Kern tune, with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, arranged and conducted by Johnny Mandel, Allen’s friend from Raeburn days, is without peer.
Absent from the Wikipedia’s list of recordings, I have added it.
As well as the album of Kern from which it is excerpted:
“A Sure Thing” (1957)
A concept of no small import
Both to lovers and investors.
2) Side By Side
Friendship, love and loyalty exist without money.
They do not always survive it.
Side By Side was one of several standards written by Harry M. Woods.
Composed on a piano, though he was born without fingers on his left hand.
Here are Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis on the Colgate Comedy Hour in 1955, singing specialty lyrics, as they edged toward parting:
3) I’ve Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’
The Heyward/Gershwin anthem of the virtues of poverty, from “Porgy and Bess.”
Sung by the man who had everything
But also knew of life bereft:
4) My Ship
The emptiness of wealth without love.
Julie Andrews imbues the classic “My Ship” with a depth of feeling one might not expect from “Mary Poppins” (1964).
Music by Kurt Weill, refugee from Germany
Witnessed firsthand the fugitive nature of wealth and love.
Lyrics by Ira Gershwin
Who knew the frailty of life after the tragic loss of his gifted brother, George.
Once heard, haunted and warned for a lifetime.
5) Two Little Girls From Little Rock
The showstopping opening of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953).
Marilyn Monroe, as Lorelei Lee, explains
Gold diggers are borne of heartbreak:
“Then someone broke my heart in Little Rock
And I up and left the pieces there.
Like a little lost lamb I roamed about.
Came to New York and I found out
That men are the same way everywhere.”
Music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Leo Robin:
6) I’ve Got The Sun In The Morning And The Moon At Night
A rousing live performance.
An Irving Berlin standard from “Annie Get Your Gun.”
Rendered by the inimitable Judy Garland.
Later dropped from the motion picture and replaced by Betty Hutton:
7) Blue Grass
“My kingdom for a horse!”--- William Shakespeare.
A love affair shattered by horse-love, from the team of Howard Dietz (lyrics) and Arthur Schwartz (music).
Sung with bemused detachment by the underappreciated Pearl Bailey.
Lament of the equine equivalent of a baseball widow
Whose charms cannot “compete with galloping feet.”
Lest you doubt horse lovers prefer riding to anything else
See “Jingle, Jangle, Jingle,” by Joseph J. Lilley and Frank Loesser
A pop hit by Harry Babbitt with Kay Kyser and his Orchestra:
8) Don’t Fence Me In
Freedom is more precious than wealth.
Doctors will sacrifice income to preserve autonomy.
Cole Porter paid good money---$250—to wrest the words of this song from its original author, Bob Fletcher, a poet and engineer, who later hired attorneys to secure his co-authorship credit.
Here performed by its most popular interpreter, Bing Crosby, accompanied by the Andrews Sisters.
Cole Porter insisted it was his least favorite song:
9) Trouble In Paradise
Theme of the most Lubitschian of Ernst Lubitsch pictures, “Trouble in Paradise” (1932), this pre-code tale of love, sex, power, crime and money---music by W. Franke Harling, lyrics by Leo Robin again---speculates upon the thickness of thieving lovers and the loneliness of the idle rich:
You’ll love it.
10) Give Me The Simple Life
One of the truly gifted jazz singers, paired with the likes of Lester Young and Johnny Smith, whose brief life ended in suicide at 28, Beverly Kenney---an icon in Japan---eschews the burdens of wealth and lauds the joy of essentials in this Rube Bloom (music)/Harry Ruby (lyrics) pleasure from the movie, “Wake Up and Dream” (1946).
If you have never heard Beverly Kenney, prepare for a treat:
11) Oh, Lawd, I’m on My Way
Again, from “Porgy and Bess.”
The clergy whom I treat love God and take vows of poverty.
Material things are unimportant to them.
They do not fear death.
They welcome it as a return to God.
They do not regret “you can’t take it with you.”
Because they know it was never theirs.
Here is Willard White as Porgy, singing of his faith
Through God’s help he will find and rescue his cocaine-mad Bess:
Coda: As Mom Lay Dying
My mother never cared about money.
Sent across the English Channel by parents who would not live to see her again,
She loved only people.
As she lay dying I would visit her as often as I could, in her apartment, where I grew up.
Ever stationed before the apartment house, leaning upon her walker, was a tiny, wizened woman, far older than anyone else in the building, smoking with the assurance of a 1940’s movie star.
Asked why she never quit,
She had a stock reply, asserted with the timing, smoke and tone of George Burns:
“My doctor says it won’t hurt me.”
My mother had but one steady aide for five years.
Whom mother loved
For the rest of her life.
The smoker had a succession of aides.
A new aide to the smoker, perhaps a budding Buddhist, was overheard expounding upon her theory of happiness:
“You must be satisfied with what you have.”
Without missing a beat, through a column of smoke:
“That’s not how it works.”