Retro of the day: Nina Simone

Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” is a blues standard written by Jimmy Cox in 1923. Its lyric, told from the point of view of a one-time millionaire during the Prohibition era, reflects on the fleeting nature of material wealth and the friendships that come and go with it. As a vaudeville-style blues, it was popularized by Bessie Smith, the preeminent female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s. Since her 1929 recording, it has been interpreted by numerous musicians in a variety of styles.

 

 

When “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” was composed in 1923 by Jimmy Cox, the “Roaring Twenties” were coming into full swing. After the post-World War I recession, a new era of prosperity was experienced in the U.S. and elsewhere. However, in the face of all the optimism, Cox wrote a cautionary tale about the fickle nature of fortune and its attendant relationships:

Once I lived the life of a millionaire, spendin’ my money I didn’t care

I carried my friends out for a good time, buying bootleg liquor, champagne and wine

When I begin 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 ’til them eagles grin

Nobody knows you, when you down and out

In my pocket not one penny, and my friends I haven’t any …

The song is a moderate-tempo blues with ragtime-influences, which follows an eight-bar progression

Chart (1992)

Peak
position

Argentina (CAPIF)[8]

8

Certification

Region

Certification

Sales/shipments

Argentina (CAPIF)[8]

Gold 50,000x


Advertisements