Sahara (We’ll Soon Be Dry Like You)

by Alfred Bryan and Jean Schwartz (1919, Hunleth Music Store Sheet Music and Photograph Collection)

with Scott Schwartz, director and archivist

Although temperance societies’ songwriters praised the new alcohol laws in 1919, many other Tin Pan Alley arrangers ridiculed these same consumer statutes.  Jean Schwartz and Alfred Bryan’s sarcastic fox trot, “Sahara (We’ll Soon Be Dry Like You),” was marketed aggressively by Edison Records, which produced the first commercial recording of it in 1920 with Billy Murray as the soloist. 

with Nolan Vallier, graduate assistant

One biting advertisement for the song begins, “For those who look upon the wine when it is red, there is consolation in the thought that the Sahara always will have her oases and dry America will continue to have hers too.” 

“Sahara (We’ll Soon Be Dry Like You) [Recorded July 1919]” from 1920’s Blues & Jazz Vocals, Vol. 1 (Recorded 1919-1926) by Esther Walker. Released: 2014.

The song’s lyrics use 1920s slang for drinking and a complex melodic form not typically utilized by Tin Pan Alley composers.  The song begins,

 King Ramesses went to pieces seven thousand years ago,
 And pass’d a law that Egypt must go dry. 
 He took the Liquors from the “Shickers” all the way to Jericho,
 But kept a little toddy on the sly.
 The desert of Sahara flow’d with honey so they say,
 Till prohibition came along and dried it up one day.