“Self Made Man”

Back in the 1960s, a young John Hartford recorded a fragment of a song called “Self Made Man” (it was released in 2019 in a posthumous album). Then in 1971, Hartford made a nice arrangement for it and recorded the song on his album “Radio John.” It’s a witty satire of those rich men who think they are self-made, though really their rise to financial success has come at the expense of others: “How many fingers must he step on, to do the best he can… Have you seen the bones his closet holds, Do you watch hi when he sharpens his knife?” It was a pretty good song, even though it was really just a fragment of a song.

Fast forward to 2022. Rachel Baiman, a young country and old-timey musician based in Nashville, decided to fill out Hartford’s song. She added another verse, for the women in the lives of “self-made men,” which manages to duplicate some of Hartford’s wit and sparkle:

Do you think you want to sit around and play a part
In the corner of his self made life
Stand by his side patiently
And try to be his perfect little wife?
Will you tell him that he’s done everything right
And that he should never take the blame
For the people cast off and trampled on,
Just because they got in his way?
How many men do you think it takes to make a self made man….

Huh. Reminds me of certain billionaires who are in the news right now.

Then Baiman added another melody for the chorus, which Hartford had just sung to the same melody as the verses. She has turned the song into an infectious sing-along song that challenges the prevailing mythos of the current economic order. (You won’t be surprised to learn that Baiman was raised by parents who belonged to the Democratic Socialist party.)

Worth listening to, and worth singing along to.

Screen shot of a video of Baiman performing the song in a sound studio.
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