Ain't We Got Fun

Words by Gus Kahn, Raymond B. Egan; music by Richard Whiting, 1921

Who is singing this song? Verses sung by narrator, chorus by couple. What is this song about? Where does the young couple live?

Point out lines in the song that refer to these social and economic trends of the 1920s:

    • Buying on credit
• Rural-to-urban migration
• More frank talk about sexuality
• Transportation trends
• "Emancipated" women
• Shorter hours
• Prosperity

Summarize the philosophy of this song in one sentence. What proverb or saying sums up the attitude of this couple?

Besides optimism, what other attitudes does this song express? Cynicism, resignation. What lines express a more pessimistic outlook? "The rich get rich and the poor get poorer," "Times are bad and getting badder," etc.

How well did this song mirror the attitudes in the general population? What groups might feel that this song did not reflect their lifestyle and attitudes in 1921? African Americans, immigrants, farm families.

What is unusual about the way this song depicts poverty? Does this couple's lifestyle seem poverty-stricken? How do you think the mood of this song might change if it were written ten years later in 1931? What attitudes might this song express then?

"Ain't We Got Fun" performed by Harmonizers Quartet on Wonderful Nonsense: Fun Songs of the Roaring Twenties, Los Angeles: Take Two Records [TT503CD], © 1997. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

This performance is by the Harmonizers Quartet, one of many similarly named male vocal groups that recorded in the 1920s. This rendition captures the sounds of a live vaudeville performance, with several instruments in the orchestra and lots of sliding tones in the trombones.

View the lyrics for "Ain't We Got Fun"

View the published score.

Gus Kahn
Gus Kahn

Gus Kahn (1886–1941) was a prolific lyricist who wrote songs for Tin Pan Alley, stage, and film during the 1920s and 30s. He is best known for his 1916 hit, "Pretty Baby," one of a series of "baby" songs. Like many other composers and lyricists, Kahn began working in vaudeville and the stage in New York, then moved to Hollywood in the 1930s. There he collaborated with many different composers on movie songs. Kahn is also famous for "Makin' Whoopee," "Toot, Toot, Tootsie," and "Carolina in the Morning."

Richard Whiting (1891–1938) was a self-taught pianist who wrote his first songs in the years before World War I, but his best-known songs were from the 1920s. He also moved to Hollywood to compose for films and became one of the first important composers to write for the movies. Raymond Egan is best known for his collaborations with Whiting on, among other songs, "Till We Meet Again," a piece which sold millions in the early 1920s.

This song is an excellent example of the Tin Pan Alley style of the 1920s: a foxtrot dance with echoes of ragtime’s syncopated rhythms. It also includes elements of vaudeville in the upbeat music and the snappy lyrics. "Ain't We Got Fun" reflects the combination of cynicism and devil-may-care attitudes that typified the "Jazz Age" of the 1920s.

Compare this song to:

"The Argentines, the Portuguese and the Greeks"

"How 'Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm?"

Adapt the lyrics of this song as if it were being sung during the Great Depression instead of the Roaring '20s.



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