Homelessness in popular culture
Homelessness in popular culture is depicted in various works. The issue is frequently described as an invisible problem, despite its prevalence. Writers and other artists play a role in bringing the issue to public attention. Homelessness is the central theme of many works; in other works homelessness is secondary, added to advance the story or contribute to dramatic effect.
Homelessness is the central subject in most of the works of art listed here.
Depictions of homelessness
The homeless are frequently divided as either protagonists or antagonists. Characters, like Chaplin's Little Tramp, provide light-hearted humor through lovable personalities. Fred Glass writes the social type of Chaplin's character represented was familiar and emotionally appealing. One account given is that Chaplin based his character on a man whom he had met in San Francisco in 1914.
Other popular culture depicts the homeless as mentally ill, or even psychotic.
- 1800s "Hallelujah, I'm a Bum" - traditional folk song.
- 1908 "If It's Good Enough for Washington It's Good Enough For Me", music by Percy Wenrich, words by Ren Shields - sleeping on bench in public square with statue of George Washington.
- 1915 "Those Charlie Chaplin feet" by Edgar Leslie and Archie Gottler.
- 1929 "The Right Kind of Man" by L. Wolfe Gilbert and Abel Baer.
- 1930 "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? by Jay Gorney and Yip Harburg.
- 1930 "Singing a Vagabond Song" by Harry Richman, Val Burton and Sam Messenheimer.
- 1940 "I Ain't Got No Home", by Woody Guthrie
- 1956 "Ain't Got No Home", by Clarence Frogman Henry
- 1962 "Man on the Street", by Bob Dylan, officially released on 1991's Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series.
- 1963 "Only a Hobo", by Bob Dylan, officially released on 1991's Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series.
- 1965 "King of the Road (song)" from the album, The Return of Roger Miller."
- 1968 "I Am a Lonesome Hobo", by Bob Dylan, from his 8th studio recording John Wesley Harding. A humble warning from a homeless man to those who are better off.
- 1969 "Highway Chile", by Jimi Hendrix Experience. The song is about a homeless man that Jimi met when he was on tour.
- 1972 "Aqualung", by Jethro Tull
- 1977 "We'd Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover" in the musical Annie
- 1978 "Bag Lady", by Todd Rundgren, from the album Hermit of Mink Hollow
- 1983 "Brothers Under the Bridges" by Bruce Springsteen, later released on Tracks compilation album
- 1987 "Day-In Day-Out" by David Bowie. The song was written about the treatment of the homeless in the US, and the video, which was shot in Los Angeles, was nominated for a 1987 MTV Video Music award in the category of "Best Male Video".
- 1989 "Another Day in Paradise" by Phil Collins, a controversial but nevertheless Brit and Grammy award-winning song which was included on his album ...But Seriously. It became the last Billboard Hot 100 number-one single of the 1980s.
- 1991 Something in the Way, music by Nirvana, written by Kurt Cobain when he was young, homeless and sleeping under a bridge at the age of fifteen
- 1991 "Even Flow", music by Pearl Jam, lyrics written by Eddie Vedder telling a story about a homeless man.
- 1991 "Homeless (Like the Christ Child Was)" on the album "The Forgotten Carols" by Michael McLean.
- 1993 "Shelter" by Duran Duran.
- 1993 "Somebody's Baby" by Pat Benatar.
- 1996 "Low Man's Lyric" by Metallica.
- 1998 "What it's like" by Everlast.
- 2000 "If That Were Me" by Melanie C, a top 20 UK hit single from her debut solo album Northern Star.
- 2004 "Nobody's Home" by Avril Lavigne.
- 2007 "There Is No Good Reason" by Natalie Merchant on the compilation album, Give US Your Poor. The song was written by a 15-year-old homeless girl, Nichole, telling about her ordeals and struggles.
Popular music albums
- 2007. Give US Your Poor. It has 17 recordings to help end homelessness with artists such as Jon Bon Jovi, Natalie Merchant, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, Sonya Kitchell, Bonnie Raitt, and actors Danny Glover and Tim Robbins.
- 1914. The Little Tramp with Charlie Chaplin Series of Film
- 1948 Easter Parade (film) features a short, but famous depiction of vagrants.
- 1966. Cathy Come Home—an influential film by Ken Loach which raised the profile of homelessness in the UK and led indirectly to the formation of several charities and changes in legislation.
- 1977. Simple Gifts on IMDb —opening original segment by Maurice Sendak in collection of six animated Christmas shorts, PBS TV special issued on VHS in 1993.
- 1985. Tampopo—featured a scene where a community of culinary bums live quite well and one of them becomes instrumental to the narrative. The scene as has been reference in other works.
- 1986. Down and Out in Beverly Hills
- 1987. Morning Patrol -- Nikos Nikolaidis.
- 1987. Ironweed—based on the 1983 novel Ironweed by William Kennedy which won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
- 1988. The Legend of the Holy Drinker (film) -- Ermanno Olmi, based on the novel by Joseph Roth, starring Rutger Hauer
- 1989. No Place Like Home on IMDb —made-for-TV film depicts a family's descent into homelessness. Christine Lahti won a Golden Globe for her performance as the mother.
- 1991. Curly Sue -- John Hughes film starring James Belushi
- 1991. The Fisher King -- Terry Gilliam
- 1991. Life Stinks -- Mel Brooks
- 1994. With Honors -- Joe Pesci
- 1997. La Vendedora de Rosas on IMDb - Adaptation of The Little Match Girl
- 2003. Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story—Harvard student
- 2003 Monster — Biopic of serial killer, Aileen Wuornos.
- 2006. Lights in the Dusk -- Aki Kaurismäki.
- 2006. The Pursuit of Happyness—the story of Chris Gardner
- 2008. Hancock—a homeless, down and out superhero spoof.
- 2009. The Soloist—based on a true story of Nathaniel Ayers, a musician who becomes schizophrenic and homeless.
- 2010. Parked—the story of a man living in his car and the friendships that influence his life
- 1978. The Agony of Jimmy Quinlan is a National Film Board documentary about homeless alcoholics in Montreal (video online in full).
- 1984. Streetwise—follows homeless Seattle youth.
- 1993. It Was a Wonderful Life on IMDb —chronicles the lives of six articulate, educated, "hidden homeless" women as they struggle from day to day. Narrated by Jodie Foster.
- 1997. The Street: A Film with the Homeless about the Canadian homeless in Montreal. New York Times Review,
- 2000. Dark Days—A film following the lives of homeless adults living in the Amtrak tunnels in New York.
- 2001. Children Underground—Following the lives of homeless children in Bucharest, Romania.
- 2002. Bumfights — Documentary series criticized as exploitative, mondo films
- 2003. À Margem da Imagem on IMDb —about the homeless in São Paulo, Brazil. Its English title is "On the Fringes of São Paulo: Homeless".
- 2004. Homeless in America on IMDb
- 2005. The Children of Leningradsky—About homeless children in Moscow.
- 2005. Reversal of Fortune—A homeless person is given $100,000 and is free to do whatever he wishes with the money.
- 2006. Homeless—About Homeless people and homelessness in England.
- 2007. Easy Street—about the homeless in St. Petersburg, Florida.
- 2008. The Oasis—an observational documentary about homeless youths in Sydney, Australia, filmed over two years.
- 2008. Carts of Darkness is a documentary by Murray Siple about extreme shopping cart racing by homeless men. (Video online in full.)
- 2008. The Ballad of Robert and Harvey: We Are Not Faraway on IMDb - "Centered on the troubled friendship between Robert and Harvey, the film exposes the unique hardships and common humanity of people who live among us but are virtually unknown."
TV and radio
- 1977. Underneath the Arches, a ground-breaking documentary produced by Owen Spencer-Thomas on BBC Radio London in which London's homeless people were enabled to tell their own stories.
- 1988. Home Sweet Homeless on IMDb —a CBS Schoolbreak Special about a mother and her son who find themselves having to live in their car.
Entertainment and comedy
- 1951 - 1971. The Red Skelton Show features Freddie the Freeloader, played by Red Skelton.
- 1951. An episode entitled "The Quiz Show" of I Love Lucy features Lucy (played by Lucille Ball), who in order to win $1,000 has to trick her husband, Ricky (played by Desi Arnaz), that she has a long lost previous husband. Harold the Tramp (played by John Emery) is mistaken by Lucy for the actor hired by the game show producers.
- 1961. An episode entitled "Opie's Hobo Friend" of the second season of The Andy Griffith Show deals with Opie's (played by Ron Howard) friendship with an immoral homeless individual, David Browne (played by Buddy Ebsen).
- 1963. An episode entitled "Beaver's Good Deed" of the sixth season of "Leave it to Beaver" features Beaver (played by Jerry Mathers) who befriends and cares for a homeless individual, Jeff (played by Frank Ferguson), while his parents are away.
- 1972. An episode entitled "The Show Must Go On??" of the fourth season of The Brady Bunch features the mom, Carol (Florence Henderson), and her daughter, Marcia (Maureen McCormick), play two homeless individuals, as they sing " Together (Wherever We Go)."
- 1977. "The Easter Bunny Is Comin' to Town" features Hallelujah Jones who is a lovable tramp who befriends Sunny and suggests that he sell his eggs in a town called Town.
- 1987. "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime", of the sitcom, Kate & Allie, Allie gets stranded in the north end of Manhattan and has to make it back to Greenwich Village with no money. At one point, Allie asks herself where homeless people go to the bathroom. The episode ends with a special tribute to the homeless.
- 1991. "The Library" of the sitcom, Seinfeld, surrounds itself on George's former teacher, Mr. Heyman, whom he learns became homeless.
- 2007. "Night of the Living Homeless" was an episode that appeared on Comedy Central's South Park. It was first broadcast on April 18, 2007.
- 1728. The Beggar's Opera, a play by John Gay
- 1902. The Lower Depths, a play by Maxim Gorky, inspired by the residents of a Nizhny Novgorod homeless shelter.
- 1985. Stinkfoot, a Comic Opera - a musical which includes the homeless Mrs. Bag Bag.
- 1853. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
- 1905. "The Cop and the Anthem" (short story) by O. Henry.
- 1983. Ironweed by William Kennedy
- 1993. Stone Cold by Robert Swindells.
- 1996. Junk by Melvin Burgess.
- 2010. Street Logic by Steve Sundberg, Bookstand Publishing, 2010. ISBN 978-1-58909-680-6
- 1907. Tramping with Tramps by Josiah Flynt.
- 1933. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell.
- 1998. The homeless in Paris: a representative sample survey of users of services for the homeless, in Dragana Avramov, ed, Coping with homelessness : issues to be tackled and best practices in Europe, Ashgate Publishing, by Maryse Marpsat and Jean-Marie Firdion.
- 2005. Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (With Kids) in America by Michelle Kennedy.
- 2005. The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls. ISBN 0-7432-4753-1
- 2005. Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America by Mike Yankoski.
- 1568. "The Beggars" by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
- 17th-Century. Woodcarved beggars by various Italian woodcarvers.
- 1856. The Blind Girl by John Everett Millais
- 2005. Photographic expose by Michel Mersereau entitled "Between The Cracks"
- Jesus the Homeless
- "The invisible problem".
- "HUMAN RIGHTS: More Than 100 Million Homeless Worldwide" Archived 2009-04-22 at the Wayback Machine.
- Glass, Fred (2016). From Mission to Microchip: A History of the California Labor Movement. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- "Those Charlie Chaplin Feet." Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection. Accessed 10 September 2017. http://levysheetmusic.mse.jhu.edu/catalog/levy:189.170a
- "Singing a Vagabond Song." Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection. Accessed 10 September 2017. http://levysheetmusic.mse.jhu.edu/catalog/levy:191.122
- The Glass Spider Tour Press Conferences (Stockholm) (vinyl). 28 March 1987.
- Pegg, Nicholas (October 2016). "The Complete David Bowie New Edition: Expanded and Updated". Titan Books.
- "MTV Video Music Awards 1987". 11 September 1987. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
- "A Walking Tour of... Kurt Cobain's Aberdeen". The Aberdeen Museum of History. Retrieved 2008-12-08.
Whether Cobain ever slept under this bridge as he claimed is not certain, however, he did spend time beneath the south approach, as did many of the neighborhood kids.
- Bienias, Michelle (January 2005). "Kurt Cobain's 'Bridge' in Aberdeen, Washington" (18). VR MAG. Archived from the original on 2008-10-06.
Kurt lived under this bridge for a time when he was 15 and frequented it as a ‘hang out’ of sorts as well. His experiences living under this bridge were the basis for the Nirvana song ‘Something's In the Way’.
- Give US Your Poor organisation: The Campaign to End Homelessness - University of Massachusetts, Boston.
- Give US Your Poor - multi-artist album at Appleseed Records.
- Mills, Fred, "Give Them Your Money: Give US Your Poor Benefit Disc Features Springsteen, Seeger, Raitt, Bon Jovi, Others", HARP magazine, July 22, 2007
- Miller, Adam, Music Review: 'Give US Your Poor' : All-star cast of artists contribute to fight against homelessness, The Epoch Times, Kansas Staff, September 24, 2007
- Vennila Films Post-Production page on "We are not Faraway
- Flynt, Josiah (1907). Tramping with Tramps. New York City: The Century Company.