images-4Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out, was written in 1923 by Jimmy Cox. The great Bessie Smith recorded it in 1929 and had a big hit. Not surprisingly, the song soon became associated with the great Wall St. crash of ’29. It tells of a “riches to rags” reversal of fortune. So goes life, so goes the stock market. Things go up and down. Bessie Smith was talking about a woman being penniless and down and out. And it’s a great truth: Nobody does know you when you’re down and out. So, keep on the sunny side, my friends.

The song been done by Count Basie, Louis Jordan, Leadbelly, Eric Clapton, and a host of others. It’s considered a “quintessential blues song”, but, to me, it’s more of a ragtime song with a great (OK, pretty bluesy) lyric. 

Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out
Once I lived the life of a millionaire
Spending my money, I didn’t care
I carried my friends out for a good time
Buying bootleg liquor, champagne and wine
Then I began to fall so low
I didn’t have a friend, and no place to go
So if I ever get my hand on a dollar again
I’m gonna hold on to it till them eagle’s grin
Nobody knows you when you down and out
In my pocket not one penny
And my friends I haven’t any
But If I ever get on my feet again
Then I’ll meet my long lost friend
It’s mighty strange, without a doubt
Nobody knows you when you down and out
Oh, nobody knows you
When you’re down and out.
In your pocket, not one penny,
And as for friends… you don’t have many.When you get back on your feet again,
Everybody wants to be your long-lost friend.
I said it straight without any doubt,
Nobody knows you,
Nobody knows you,
Nobody knows you when you’re down and out.

 

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