Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
Index of songs on this site
Link to comprehensive index and research notes
Youtube: all the Penny Songs I've recorded so far (with subtitles)

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List of the still-lost songs: do you know any of them?
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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Itzik - a naughty parody set to "Nokh a bisl un epes nokh"

Morris Rund wrote this lyric - as I wrote in my post on the original song Nokh a bisl un epes nokh, the tune was probably an instrumental before there were any words at all. I think Louis Gilrod and his pal M. J. Rubinstein co-opted the tune, wrote a tiny bit more music and (maybe) the words, and published it.

Morris Rund's text is a bit naughty and also kind of hard to sing. I had to practice before I could get this out: "Farpak dem shmitshik shpil nit Itsik, Stop shoyn skripn Sore Tsipn." Again, Rund is obsessed with what the landlady does with the boarder when the husband is at work during the day. Musicians work at night and have a racy reputation, which makes the fantasies even more vivid.

So when (as usual) the landlady's husband comes home and finds Itzik fiddling his wife, he tells Itsik to move, and in the third verse Itsik moves to his landlady's vint. There seems to be an alternate meaning here for the word and I don't know what it is. If you know, please let me know.

So here's the song. It should really be done by a whole klezmer band:


Transliteration and translation from the Yiddish after the jump.

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Nokh a bisl un epes nokh (A little more and something more)

UPDATE: I decided to record this one myself with the first and third verses. Here's my version from yesterday:



This was probably an instrumental first - a klezmer tune - and the text was probably written later. The tune "Nokh a bisl" is still very popular with klezmer bands.


Again with the ridiculous amount of eating! This theme comes up over and over again in the songs of Eastern European immigrants. They were not used to the ostentatious abundance common in the U.S. and were fascinated, repulsed, and --- hungry.

I've used Simon Pascal's wonderful rendition of Epes Nokh in this video; his 1913 Victor recording was downloaded from Jewniverse.

On the record label it's spelled Eppess noch and the singer's name is Simon Paskel. One also finds Simon Paskal.

Simon Paskal (1881-1930) was born in Romania and came to America in 1900. Later he became a vaudeville actor but wasn't particularly successful; he then became a cantor. His ambition had been to become an opera singer.

Here's his recording with my subtitles:

His version follows the text from the American Yiddish Penny Songs collection closely for two verses but has a completely different third verse which I don't feel qualified to transcribe. You'll find the third verse from the broadside below, in case you want more, and there's yet another verse on the sheet music (full of foods I was not able to google).

Visit Yiddish Song of the Week for more on the "Lena from Palesteena" motif heard in this melody.

Visit Itsik for four more ribald verses set to this melody.

So here is the text and the translation, from the songsheet as sold on the streets of the Lower East Side around 1913:

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

A kind (A child) - a Yiddish song in which nobody dies!

I would not have bothered recording this song except for its one spectacular eccentricity - in the whole song nothing bad happens.

The parents have a child, he grows up to be healthy and nice, nobody dies. Everybody is happy.

All I can think is that it was perhaps sung as the sad fantasy of a childless woman. It's inconceivable things would ever go this smoothly in a Yiddish operetta.

Other than its unexplainable pleasantness, the song is pretty generic, and is set to a tune used for many other penny songs, probably because it was very well known: A mentsh zol men zayn (One should be a decent human being). Here it is, from this morning (I only sang two of the three verses):



I used these same two tracks, guitar by Ken Bloom and bass by Jim Baird, for a previous song set to the same melody: Keyn nar zol men nit zayn (don't be a fool).

Text and translation after the jump.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

In fremdn land (In a foreign land) - revenge of the deserted mother.

As you've noticed by now, Morris Rund's view of the world was bleak. In his songs, wives betray husbands, husbands slave away while their wives gobble oysters, and (here) bad husbands force their wives into prostitution. And all the time, complaints about the "new land" - if things were so great for him in Austria, why did he leave?

I recently posted a song about similar goings on in Argentina: Hert oys gute brider, in which a girl marries in Warsaw, hoping to improve her station in life, and then gets dragged to Buenos Aires to become lebedike skhoyre (lively or living merchandise).

There are SO many Yiddish songs warning girls about becoming too modern or independent. Samet un zayd is a classic - a girl goes with a guy because she'd like nice clothes, and in the second verse the ambulance is bringing her to the hospital in her finery and she expires.

The Rund text here was set to the melody of the Solomon Smulewitz mega-hit A brivele der mamen, a tearjerker about a guy who leaves home and has the good life in America and forgets his mother and then his mother up and dies. In THIS song, though, because it's a girl who leaves instead of a boy, it's she who dies.

Well, enough editorializing, here's the recording I made yesterday:


Transliteration and translation after the jump.

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Monday, September 19, 2016

A brivele dem tatn (A letter to father) - this time the kid is not at fault! Yiddish tearjerker.

Click for a larger view of this magnificent Yiddish sheet music cover. The cover can be seen on several websites, but I don't think there's a recording of the song itself. So I made one.

I can't say this is my favorite Penny Song, but it does have an interesting twist. I'm sure the song was written following the massive success of A brivele der mamen - but in this case, the son is not ungrateful and forgetful. He sends his dad money, letters, and even a ticket to come to America. It's the officials at Ellis Island who are the villains. This father "did not have the strength of a giant" so he was rejected by the immigration officials.

After years of owning my Yamaha keyboard I finally read part of the owner's manual yesterday and figured out how to run a Sibelius sheet music file out into the keyboard so I could record it. I wanted to do an accompaniment which was pretty close to Rumshinsky's piano arrangement, but even though his arrangement is very easy, it's too hard for me. So the computer played it.

On the original sheet music, many phrases ended with words accented on the final syllable. I have heard period recordings like that so I guess it was acceptable, but I had it drilled into me to accent the penultimate syllable.

After recording this I wished I'd sung it slower and lower, but I'm not about to do it again!


One final comment: I went to quite a bit of trouble to clean up the original transliteration (printed in the sheet music) to use in this video. It demonstrates the daytshmerish (Germanic) spelling which is horrifying to today's Yiddish students and teachers but which was the norm in New York Yiddish sheet music publishing houses around the turn of the century. If you want to search for Yiddish lyrics, you should consider they may be spelled this way online.

YIVO transliteration and translation after the jump.

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Shenkt a nedove (Make a donation) - the original recording by Regina Prager (1906) and a Lifshe Schaechter-Widman version

This Yiddish song urging the audience to send financial aid to the victims of the Kishinev pogroms in Russia was published in 1906 by Arnold Perlmutter and Herman Wohl. On the cover the transliteration is Schenkt a neduwe. Inside it says Schenkt a ne du we. My opinion is that whoever typeset this sheet music did not know Yiddish - he was comfortable with German but mangled all the words from Hebrew.

This song must have been very popular. Morris Rund certainly liked it, he set two of his songs to its melody: Farges nit kadish zogn and Di korbones fun der shif Titanik.

It's not very often I can share the exact recording cited in the sheet music! But here, happily, you can hear the original recording by Regina Prager (Mr. Blank sang the song with Mrs. Prager at some point but he is not heard in this recording).


You can also hear the song here: Minnie Birnbaum singing Shenkt a Nedoweh

More after the jump...

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Di korbones fun der shif Titanik - The victims of the ship Titanic. Disaster song by Morris Rund.

This is the second penny song about the sinking of the Titanic - the first was Dos greste yam umglik fun der shif Titanik.

So first, here's my rendition of Di korbones fun der shif Titanik from yesterday.



I was able to re-use Roger Lynn Spears' piano track from Farges nit kadish zogn because this one was based on the same melody, Shenkt a nedove (by Arnold Perlmutter and Herman Wohl). This contrafactum was also written by Morris Rund.

Now let's get a good look at the magnificent cover page for the penny song. I don't know how anyone could have resisted this illustration by Lola [Leon Israel], a well-known political cartoonist of the time. Click for a larger view.



For once, Morris Rund left his own name and photo off the front page in favor of this magnificent illustration. It reads, under the statuary urns:

Isidor Straus
A nobeler bayshpiler
Di bravkeyt fun yidishen man
"Froyen un kinder muzen friher geretevet veren. Mikh hob tsayt shpeter, shpeter." -- Izidor Straus

Ida Straus
A nobeler bayshpil fun der ? opfervliger liebe fun der yidisher froy
"Vu du vest zayn, vel ikh oykh zayn. Oyb shtarben, zolen mir shtarben tsuzamen!"

More after the jump.

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