If we’re lucky, we all go through some rough times when we first get out on our own. Wait, lucky? What the hell does he mean “lucky,” and why is he speaking in the third person?
Listen: When your belly rumbles, you can’t afford to turn the gas on, and rent comes down to the coins in your pockets, you learn some things. You learn about sharing, compassion, thrift, generosity. Don’t believe me? Read Dickens.
Or even better, be broke for a little while. In my perfect world, every CEO would live for a year on his or her most poorly paid employee’s salary. Every politician would spend a year on welfare. Let Rush Limbaugh eat nothing but beans and ramen noodles for 12 months. That’ll slim him down and shut him the fuck up.
I don’t want their money. They can go back to being stinking rich after their 12 months. I simply want them to develop some compassion, for Christ’s sake. That would solve the poverty problem in this country faster than any legislation ever could.
Whoa, I almost slipped off my soapbox. Let’s get to the poverty songs:
“Last Po’ Man,” Seasick Steve. Steve Wold is a bit of a divisive character. He’s huge in the UK, but America seems to want to punish him for creating the character Seasick Steve. The dude has been around forever as an engineer, session man, busker, etc., but somehow he’s not authentic enough for the hipsters. Well, fuck those guys. Seasick Steve gets it done.
“To Hell With Poverty,” Gang of Four. This song has been on my personal playlist quite literally for most of my life, but it wasn’t until I watched this clip that it struck me just how much Talking Heads influence there is in this cut.
“Poor Boy,” Nick Drake. Come on—Nick Drake! You’re welcome.
“Poor Side of Town,” Johnny Rivers. This is a cool old clip. I have to admit that I’ve never given Johnny Rivers much love, and for a pretty odd reason. Commercials for Johnny Rivers compilation albums showed up on television often when I was a kid. Cool bands didn’t advertise, but Slim Whitman and Boxcar Willie did, and so J.R. was forever grouped with those dudes in the music section of my brain. Sorry, Johnny, you’re okay.
“Busted,” Ray Charles. A classic.
“I Need Some Money,” John Lee Hooker. The older I get, the more I like John Lee Hooker. Somebody else might have done this song, but I can’t think of whom….
“I Gotsa Get Paid,” ZZ Top. This is a cool recent track from that little ol’ band from Texas. The original was a mediocre hip hop track. I’d say they put some purty lipstick on that pig.
“Pay the Bills,” The O’Jays. I know you’ve been waiting since the beginning of this playlist to hear The O’Jays’ “For the Love of Money.” Sorry, suckers: This is “Deep Cuts.”
Before we all go back to looking for pennies in our lint traps, can you tell me from where I cribbed the title for this piece? First right answer gets…something. I’ll make it good, promise.