Thoroughly Modern Millies

So I spurred my mule, and I went riding on down the road

Minding my own business, ’n’ I wasn’t bothering a soul.

So finally I rode into town,

And I seed the man standing at the window,

pulling off his clothes.

Every time he’d pull off a piece,

he threw it out the window.

So I say, “Hey bub, I say, what goes?”

He said, “Look bub, if you knows what I paid for this room

And what’s in it, them clothes I’m throwing out the window’d be out of style when I come down.”

Big Bill Broonzy may have been intending only to satirize the cult of fashion, but his parable was a larger reflection of the times.  Born in rural Arkansas and reared in a large family, Broonzy’s life—service in World War I, a move to fast-paced urban Chicago, the pursuit of fame (largely unsuccessful), alcoholism, despair—could be a fable for his generation.  “How ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve...

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