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Hard Times Come Again No More

OPB Wins Peabody Award For Hard Times Series

OPB has won the Peabody award for its series on Oregonians coping with the economic recession.

The series, called Hard Times, followed a dozen people around the state as they weathered unemployment and the personal consequences and that followed.

The Peabody judges said, “The Main Street repercussions of Wall Street’s reckless ways were nowhere in the media more humanly and thoughtfully documented than in this series of radio reports.”

Even in the hardest times, music helps us survive.

In fact the theme we chose for this series, “Hard Times Come Again No More,” harkens back to another economic downturn — in the 1850s. 

Hard Times Come Again No More

Beth Hamon

- Listen to Beth’s version
- Beth talks about the song


- Listen to Glenlara’s version
- Hear band members talk about the song.

The Svens

- Listen to The Svens’ version
- Hear how the song relates to the band’s musical heritage.

Portland Symphonic Choir

- Listen to the choir’s version
- OPB’s Geoff Norcross talks with the choir’s artistic director about the song.


- Listen to Bingo’s version
- Hear his thoughts about the song and why it has passed the test of time.

Jesse Jones

- Listen to Jesse Jones
- Jesse talks about the song and her current situation. 

Rendezvous String Band

- Listen to the Rendezvous String Band

Mike Bragg and Lori Fitzpatrick

- Listen to Mike and Lori
- Mike talks about the song

American songwriter Steven Foster, who also wrote “Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair” and “Beautiful Dreamer,” knew about hard times. In spite of his great success, he died in poverty.

His song, “Hard Times Come Again No More ,” has inspired artists as diverse as Bob Dylan, Renee Fleming, James Taylor and Yo Yo Ma.

And we’re hoping it will inspire you, too.

We want to create a community version of “Hard Times,” with performances by everybody from school choirs and local orchestras to garage bands and folks who just want to sit down with a guitar, a banjo, or a kazoo.

Whatever your instrument— whatever your style— we’re interested in hearing (and maybe airing) your version of “Hard Times.” 

How To Participate

There are a couple of ways you can participate in OPB’s “Hard Times” project.

To get things started, we pulled together a group of talented folks from OPB (it’s amazing what you find when you put out a call for musicians!), and members of our staff performed all of these samples.

If we can do it, so can you!

Here’s a link to the sheet music:

In E-flat major

In A

Or pick any key you like! Go to this Stephen Foster site, find “Hard Times” and put in the key you want.

Join in our community version of the song!

This is a multi-track version — the “virtual band” version — of “Hard Times.”  OPB staffers performed these tracks in separate recording sessions, and we’ve mixed them together.

Our dream is to add your tracks, too, to create true community sound.  Here’s how to do that:

* Tune your instrument to this A tone; (this version is in the key of A).

* Listen to this version a few times to familiarize yourself with it. Then, when you’re ready, record your own track while you listen to the song in headphones, so that you can play along.

We’ve added a “click track” to one version, so that you can keep the beat if that helps. Record the melody, harmony, or hey, submit separate tracks playing both!

* E-mail us with “Hard Times: Community Track” in the subject line. We’ll get back to you about how to get your track into the mix.

We’ll mix the different tracks we get, to create a version that comes from all over.

Or send us your own version of the song.

Play this one your way — any speed, any style, any combination of voices and instruments and harmonies.

We’re looking for instrumental versions (without vocals), as well as vocal versions. Here are some samples of both:  (Instrumental 1, Instrumental 2, Vocal)

E-mail us at with “Hard Times: (your name or the name of your group)” in the subject line. We’ll get back to you about how to get your track into the mix.

For all versions that you send, be sure to include your name, contact information, and anything else you’d like us to know. Tell us your story. What does this song mean to you?

The fine print

If you’re submitting your musical offering, we’ll assume you’ve read the following and agree that….

1. You really did perform this version of the song (i.e. you’re not submitting Uncle Frank’s version of “Hard Times” without telling him, or anybody else’s for that matter), and if you’re submitting a work performed by more than one person, everybody in your group knows and agreed to share it with OPB. In addition, you’re sure that your work doesn’t contain somebody else’s copyrighted material.

2. You understand that OPB may use this in any way we choose — online, on the air, in CDs or mixed and matched with other versions or on its own, or in other ways that we can’t even think of at the moment to include on this list.

3. You understand that we’re also making this available to everybody and anybody to use as well— to post on Facebook pages, send to friends, incorporate into their own work. You can do whatever you want with your own performance, and you can post/pass along performances you find here as well. In other words, this is a sharefest all around— have fun!

OPB Musicians