Blind Alfred Reed  - How can a poor man stand such times and live

First performance: 20/04/2006


Bruce performed the song 65 times and played it during every show of the Seeger Sessions tour.  

2014-05-06 Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Houston, TX

2014-05-03 New Orleans Fairgrounds, New Orleans, LA
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
2012-04-29 New Orleans Fairgrounds, New Orleans, LA
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
2006-11-21 Odyssey Arena, Belfast, Northern Ireland
2006-11-19 Point Theatre (The), Dublin, Ireland
2006-11-18 Point Theatre (The), Dublin, Ireland
2006-11-17 Point Theatre (The), Dublin, Ireland
2006-11-14 Hallam FM Arena, Sheffield, England
2006-11-12 Wembley Arena, London, England
2006-11-11 Wembley Arena, London, England
2006-11-09 NEC Arena, Birmingham, England
2006-11-07 Sportpaleis, Antwerp, Belgium
2006-11-06 Kölnarena, Cologne, Germany
2006-10-30 Globen, Stockholm, Sweden
2006-10-29 Oslo Spektrum, Oslo, Norway
2006-10-28 Parken Stadium, Copenhagen, Denmark
2006-10-25 Pabellón Deportivo, Santander, Spain
2006-10-24 Palau Sant Jordi, Barcelona, Spain
2006-10-22 Plaza De Toros De Granada, Granada, Spain
2006-10-21 Estadi Ciutat De València, València, Spain
2006-10-19 Plaza De Toros De Las Ventas, Madrid, Spain
2006-10-13 Sportpaleis Ahoy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
2006-10-12 Color Line Arena, Hamburg, Germany
2006-10-10 PalaLottomatica, Rome, Italy
2006-10-08 PalaMaggiò, Caserta, Italy
2006-10-07 Arena Santa Giuliana, Perugia, Italy
2006-10-05 Arena Di Verona, Verona, Italy
2006-10-04 Villa Manin, Udine, Italy
2006-10-02 PalaIsozaki, Turin, Italy
2006-10-01 PalaMalaguti, Bologna, Italy
2006-06-25 PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ
2006-06-24 PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ
2006-06-22 Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY
2006-06-20 Tweeter Center At The Waterfront, Camden, NJ
2006-06-19 Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY
2006-06-17 DTE Energy Music Theatre, Clarkston, MI
2006-06-16 Blossom Music Center, Cuyahoga Falls, OH
2006-06-14 Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI
2006-06-13 First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, Tinley Park, IL
2006-06-11 Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul, MN
2006-06-10 Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, IA
2006-06-06 Sleep Train Pavilion, Concord, CA

2006-06-05 Studio 3, NBC Studios, Burbank, CA
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

2006-06-05 Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, CA
2006-06-03 Glendale Arena, Glendale, AZ
2006-05-31 Verizon Wireless Music Center, Noblesville, IN
2006-05-30 Germain Amphitheater, Columbus, OH
2006-05-28 Nissan Pavilion, Bristow, VA
2006-05-27 Tweeter Center For The Performing Arts, Mansfield, MA
2006-05-21 Hovet, Stockholm, Sweden
2006-05-20 Oslo Spektrum, Oslo, Norway
2006-05-17 Festhalle, Frankfurt, Germany
2006-05-16 Heineken Music Hall, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2006-05-14 Pavelló Olímpic De Badalona, Barcelona, Spain
2006-05-12 DatchForum, Milan, Italy
2006-05-10 Palais Omnisports De Paris-Bercy, Paris, France
2006-05-09 LSO St. Luke's, London, England
2006-05-08 Hammersmith Apollo, London, England
2006-05-07 Manchester Evening News Arena, Manchester, England
2006-05-05 Point Theatre (The), Dublin, Ireland

2006-04-30 New Orleans Fairgrounds, New Orleans, LA
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

2006-04-26 Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ
Rehearsal Show

2006-04-25 Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ
Rehearsal Show

2006-04-24 Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ
Rehearsal Show

2006-04-20 Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ
Rehearsal Show


"How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live? " is an American folk song originally recorded on December 4, 1929 in New York City. It was written, composed, and performed by Blind Alfred Reed, accompanying himself on the violin. The song tells of hard times during the Great Depression. It is considered an early example of a protest song.
There was once a time when everything was cheap.
But now prices almost puts a man to sleep.
When we pay our grocery bill,
we just feel like making our will.
Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live?

Other cover versions

Bruce on the artist

Bruce told Australian journalist Sean Sennett on 05 Jun 2006 before the Tonight Show taping in Los Angeles:
"Jon Landau, my manager, sent me a tape of Ry Cooder doing the song, and I just liked it musically. He kind of sang the Blind Alfred Reed lyric, but for me there was a place to make it more current." Springsteen reworked the song for his Seeger Sessions tour. He kept only the last verse from Blind Alfred Reed's version, and wrote 3 additional verses related to the Gulf Coast (New Orleans) disaster and its aftermath. It is reported that he did record the song in studio with the Seeger Sessions Band during the last of the three "Seeger Sessions", but he did not include it on his 2006 cover album, We Shall Overcome - The Seeger Sessions. Bruce and his Seeger Sessions band played the song at a "private" rehearsal on 13 Apr 2006 at the Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ. The song was played during all 4 public rehearsal shows for The Seeger Sessions tour: 20, 24, 25, and 26 Apr 2006 at the Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ.
"..  this is a, uh, our first, the first official job was in New Orleans at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival….was, uh, exciting to play, to play down there particularly this year and uh….it´s hard to explain New Orleans, I´ve been telling the folks every night, New Orleans isn´t like anything you´ve ever physically seen before, there´s, uh, the amount of devastation, people lost close to a hundred thousand homes and half the, almost half the population of the city, uh, very, to ride, to ride through an American city that, so much of it´s been just literally emptied out and wiped off the map, was something I can´t quite explain but uh….it´s, uh….if you´re a musician, New Orleans is, uh, of course sacred ground, so much of the roots of the music that we´re playing here tonight, uh, came from overseas, ended up there, got mixed up and turned into rock and roll and folk and jazz and blues and rhythm and blues, it´s a city where so many beautiful things and, and beautiful people came out of, it´s, it´s contributed so much to the soul of American culture, uh, that it can´t be overstated, it really can´t be overstated, and it´s also one of the few places that when you go there, it was always still there there, it hadn´t been malled or Disneyfied, it was still pretty funky in parts (chuckles) and, uh, you could just, you know, the sense of the place was still in the streets, you could still walk down the street and see terrific musicians playing, playing on the street, brass bands playing on the street and, uh….so, uh, you know, all those musicians owe a large debt, a large debt to what came out of New Orleans and it´s a place where really the whole nation, you know, owes to keep its eye on what´s going on down there ´cause it´s contributed so much to our lives and our culture so, uh….bearing in mind, this was something that, uh, there was a song we came across called, by a guy named Blind Alfred Reed, called ´How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?´ I kept the first verse and, in the folk tradition, I added three more in, uh, in honor of our president´s unfortunate visit down there where he managed to sort of gut, gut the only agency that´s there assisting Americans in times of disaster through political cronyism but….we´ll let the music do the talking…." 


Well the doctor comes 'round here with his face all bright
And he says "in a little while you'll be alright"
All he gives is a humbug pill, a dose of dope and a great big bill
Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live

"Me and my old school pals had some mighty high times down here
And what happened to you poor black folks, well it just ain't fair"
He took a look around, gave a little pep talk, said "I'm with you" then he took a little walk
Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live

There's bodies floatin' on Canal and the levees gone to Hell
Martha, get me my sixteen gauge and some dry shells
Them who's got got out of town and them who ain't got left to drown
Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live

Go ahead!

Got family scattered from Texas all the way to Baltimore
Yeah and I ain't got no home in this world no more
Gonna be a judgment that's a fact, a righteous train rollin' down this track
Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live
Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live
Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live