The Near Future

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The Near Future is a song written by Irving Berlin in 1919.[citation needed] It is better known for the small part of its lyric that took on a life of its own: "How Dry I Am".

The term "Dry" in that time period meant abstinence from alcohol, and support of Prohibition. Those who took the opposite approach and/or view were often called "Wet". Prohibition became fact in 1920, in "the near future" after the song was issued.

This portion of the song...

How dry I am, how dry I am
It's plain to see just why I am
No alcohol in my highball
And that is why so dry I am

...became known for its ironic use as a drinking song in all manner of popular media, especially Warner Bros. cartoons in which that behavior became a stock substitute for the explicit mention of alcohol and/or drunkenness. That use necessitated removal of the phrases that overtly mentioned drinking, leading to the song's frequently being condensed to these two lines:

How dry I am, how dry I am
Nobody knows how dry I am... Hooow dryyy I aaaaaam!

On the other hand, the origin of the ditty “How Dry I Am” predates Berlin's song and the Prohibition era. It is documented as a song being sung by day-laborers in 1907 and is certainly much older.[citation needed]

“How Dry I Am” (also widely heard in the variant form, "How Dry Am I") has come to represent a four-pitch sequence widely used to begin both popular and classical works; composer, television producer, and humorist Allan Sherman included in his concert album Peter and the Commissar a quodlibet titled "Variations On 'How Dry I Am'" and quoting works ranging from "Home on the Range" to "The Flying Trapeze" to the final section of the William Tell overture and the Russian military theme from Tchaikovsky's The Year 1812. The notes' positions in the major scale are 5 < 1 < 2 < 3 as numbered diatonically and 8 < 1 < 3 < 5 as numbered chromatically (e.g., G < C < D < E in C major, C < F < G < A in F major, and D < G < A < B in G major).About this sound Play 

The idea that “How Dry I Am” is based on an old spiritual is probably valid[citation needed]. A scan through a church hymnal may reveal dozens of songs and hymns with that same beginning sequence. One hymn that matches the "How Dry I Am" tune very closely is Oh Happy Day; [1] it was almost certainly the basis for future songs on the "How Dry I Am" theme[citation needed], notably by Will B. Johnstone [2] and Benny Bell. [3] There is an old Greek song called Bufetzis (Μπουφετζής) written by Yiorgos Batis made with the music of "How Dry I Am".


  1. ^ Time Magazine - Oh Happy Day
  2. ^ Archive of Popular American Music - How Dry I Am
  3. ^ Judaica Sound Archives - The Hilarious Musical Comedy of Benny Bell, Volume 7

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