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Origins: Buddy Can you Spare a Dime - who was Al?

DigiTrad:
BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A DIME?


Related threads:
Chords Req: Brother Can You Spare a Dime? (41)
Chord Req: Brother Can You Spare a Dime (28)
Tune Req: Brother can you spare a dime (6) (closed)
Chords Req: Buddy Can You Spare a Dime? (4) (closed)


DADGBE 08 Jun 07 - 01:07 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 08 Jun 07 - 01:01 PM
Amos 08 Jun 07 - 12:46 PM
Mrrzy 08 Jun 07 - 12:34 PM
GUEST,JTT 08 Jun 07 - 12:15 PM
GUEST,meself 08 Jun 07 - 12:04 PM
GUEST 08 Jun 07 - 11:57 AM
RTim 08 Jun 07 - 11:39 AM
Big Al Whittle 08 Jun 07 - 10:51 AM
GUEST,houghmagandie 08 Jun 07 - 03:20 AM
GUEST,meself 07 Jun 07 - 11:21 PM
GUEST,JTT 07 Jun 07 - 07:24 PM
Lanfranc 07 Jun 07 - 06:30 PM
houghmagandie 07 Jun 07 - 06:14 PM
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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a D
From: DADGBE
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 01:07 PM

I asked that question of Yip Harburg when we met in the late 1970s. He said that it was for the rhyme only. It wasn't a reference to any specific person.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 01:01 PM

It was not Al Smith.

It says something about us that one thinks of Al Capone before he thinks of Al Smith- if he thinks of him at all.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Amos
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 12:46 PM

They called him Al because it was his nickname. The generic US equivalent for Tommy, as a handle for a soldier, was not Al, but Joe, or G.I. Joe.


A


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Mrrzy
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 12:34 PM

I think it had more to do with using the nickname when you don't actually know the person well enough... I remember when Dad was killed (his name had been Albert) and Reagan sent a fake condolence note calling him Al, which we all found completely insulting. But the simplest explanation etc - if it was an Al singing the song... makes sense to me.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a D
From: GUEST,JTT
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 12:15 PM

Houghmagandie, I'd always wondered the same - if Paul Simon's reference was to that historic Al.

For me, the song changed its meaning as I matured. As a child, I thought the singer had been a wealthy man who paid for the building of giant structures; when I got into the workforce I saw it as the destruction of the working man's dignity - once he'd been proud to build the great structures of New York; now he's queueing on a breadline, thankful for a bowl of soup, but enraged at the profiteering that's sent him there and now requires him to beg.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 12:04 PM

I don't know - I think 'Al' was a little more than JUST a 'pal' - he was something of a big-shot, although of the democratic variety. He was the kind of 'pal' you'd go to if you needed a job, or a small loan, or advice ...


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a D
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 11:57 AM

Yeah, you can't discount the rhyming factor...my husband thinks it was just the fact that "you knew me well enough to call me by a nickname" seemed everyone in the service had one...I've always thought it should have been "Pal" instead of "Al" every time even though that would mean it rhymed with itself.
    Please use a consistent name when you post. Anonymous posts risk deletion. Thanks.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: RTim
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 11:39 AM

"Al" does of course rhyme with "Pal"!

Tim


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 10:51 AM

I suppose I always in the back of my mind thought of Al Capone, and his fall from grace after having thousands of fawning friends and apparent admirers. the truth is of course, that there were dozens of Al's - people who thought their life had some sort of dignity, and the Great Crash of the stockmarket simply swept away their pretensions of having made some headway in society.

Al - glad not to live in such harsh times.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a D
From: GUEST,houghmagandie
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 03:20 AM

Dear meself,
You're right about it being "It was Al all the time" - I made two typos! I like your idea that Al was an all-purpose hale-fellow-well-met name. Another example from that era (and later) would be "Mac", as in "Have you got a light, Mac?".
Dear JTT,
As regards Al being a pal of Paul Simon's, I wonder if the songwriter really was referring to Buddy Can You Spare a Dime or to a common source - Al as pal?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 07 Jun 07 - 11:21 PM

It's always been my impression that "Al" is one of those diminutives that in early 20th century American culture was for some reason associated both with 'type A' and hale-fellow-well-met personalities, the 'hands-on boss' type. I can't think of any other examples off the top of my head, but I think that's how it would have been understood in the '30's.

A boss named 'Rudy' or 'Bing' just wouldn't be that same gung-ho, back-slapping guy.

(By the way, I believe the lyric is, "IT was Al all the time" - in other words, he was in great demand).

(And they 'called [him] Al' because he was a regular guy made good; not some high-falutin' Allan or Alexander or Alphonse or Aloysius).


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a D
From: GUEST,JTT
Date: 07 Jun 07 - 07:24 PM

He was a time-traveller. Later, he would be a friend of Paul Simon's.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a D
From: Lanfranc
Date: 07 Jun 07 - 06:30 PM

Could it be after Al Bowlly, who recorded the song way back when?

But then, when Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee recorded the song, they sang "Al", too.

Maybe it's just because Al rhymes with pal.

Maybe only E Y "Yip" Harburg (who wrote the lyrics) knew, and he isn't around to tell.

Al(an)


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Subject: Origins: Who was Al in Buddy Can you Spare a Dime
From: houghmagandie
Date: 07 Jun 07 - 06:14 PM

Hi,
The third verse of "Buddy Can you Spare a Dime" starts:
'Say don't you remember, they called me Al,
I was Al all time.'
Why did they call him Al? As the bridge that precedes this verse is about fighting in World war One, was Al perhaps a nickname for American soldiers in WW1, something like Tommy for British soldiers?


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