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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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

A het oder a get (A Hat Or A Divorce) - Yiddish vaudeville parody of "Kiss Yourself Goodbye"

Continuing to put the Lider magazin songs together, I got my Mappamundi bandmates Ken Bloom and Jim Baird to play the accompaniment for this ludicrous ditty.

Louis Gilrod was one of the rhymers paid by Jewish music publishers to write Yiddish versions of popular American songs, in this case the 1902 hit "Kiss Yourself Goodbye."

Here's our rendition from this week. (I omitted the first verse.)



This song is so dumb, I don't think I have any more to say about it. Transliteration and translation from the Yiddish after the jump.


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Monday, March 11, 2019

Sweet Rosie O'Grady: Yiddish Parody by David Meyerowitz of the famous Irish-American song for St Patrick's Day

Here is another song from Lider Magazin - a Yiddish version of Maude Nugent's Irish-American hit song of 1896. (You can hear her singing the original song on Youtube.)

I was so happy that Randy Kloko, the bass who has sung with me on so many of these Yiddish projects, made an unexpected visit from Florida in time to sing on this. He is a barbershop quartet expert and added the correct flair!

If you have been looking for a Jewish song to sing for St Patrick's Day, here it is.

Note that in the third verse it is revealed that Rosie is disrespected in society.

Here's our recording, finished today:



Transliteration and translation from the Yiddish after the jump.


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Nem tsurik dayn gold (Take Back Your Gold) - a parody by - Yiddish poet Morris Rosenfeld!

Click for a larger view of this songsheet from Lider Magazin.

I was kind of surprised to see that the famous, serious poet Morris Rosenfeld wrote this parody.

 This is the third of the piano tracks Aviva Enoch made for me recently (thanks Aviva!). Here's our recording from this week:




In the original song, a boy tells his pregnant girlfriend he's going to marry somebody else, but here is some money for diapers. She indignantly rejects it and says, "all I want is for you to make me your wife."

Look at the great sheet music (click for a larger view). Look how cranky that pregnant girlfriend is.

Notice that both the original lyricist and the original composer are Jews. Do you think the composer Monroe H. Rosenfeld is related to our usually-so-serious poet Morris Rosenfeld?


Transliteration and translation from the Yiddish after the jump.


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Friday, March 8, 2019

Humbug, shvindl, blof: set to "There'll be a Hot Time in the Old Time Tonight," 1897

From Lider magazin, this parody by Isaac Reingold follows the usual custom of having each verse be about some different aspect of the title.

First, the general sleaziness of mankind...

... second, the sleaziness of people appearing to be sincerely in love...

... lastly, the sinking of the USS Maine, an American naval ship blown up in Havana Harbor during the Cuban revolt against Spain, and also Krupp armors, cutting edge cladding for warships.

I never even heard of this war. It doesn't look like the United States came off looking very good, but this song has the jaunty confident jingoism of its era.

Ken Bloom (guitar) and Jim Baird (bass) came over and recorded five accompaniment tracks for me yesterday so that was cool. Here is our rendition of this odd amalgam:



Yiddish transliteration and translation after the jump.

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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Muf, muf, muf! Yiddish ragtime from 1900

This parody by Louis Gilrod (left) was found in one of the issues of Lider magazin (held at YIVO). The composer of the melody was the very prolific Leo Friedman. His biggest hit was "Let Me Call You Sweetheart." Judy Garland sang his "Meet Me Tonight In Dreamland" in her film The Good Old Summertime.

The original song was published by Sol Bloom in Chicago, at the corner of Randolph & Dearborn Streets

The Yiddish coupletists were very fond of ragtime tunes like this one.

Pianist Aviva Enoch came over and recorded three piano parts the other day. This is the second. Thanks Aviva! Here's our living room recording.


Transliteration and translation from the Yiddish after the jump.


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Saturday, March 2, 2019

Mayn kales apetit (My fiancee's appetite) - Bill of Fare - Yiddish vaudeville song about gluttony at Coney Island

UPDATE: Reposting because I found this song in Lider magazin number 21, on page 10. And my guess (see below) was confirmed: though Sani Shapiro printed it as Mayn kales apetit WITHOUT an attribution of author, in the Lider magazin Louis Gilrod is named and the title is actually "Bill of Fare." Feeling pretty pleased to have my guess confirmed. Click on the images below for a larger view.
Here's the songsheet in the Hebrew Union College box:



And here's the same song from the Lider magazin:




Coney Island attracts Jewish immigrantsConey Island's excesses are the subject of this song, particularly the way cheerful Americans with a few pennies in their pockets could buy a staggering variety of foods. I think the lyricist was blown away by the public gorging, much as you would be today if you visited the North Carolina State Fair!

Mark Slobin had a copy of this broadside and wrote about it on page 105 of his Tenement Songs:
Of particular textual interest in this song of a lunch gone mad is the slow build-up of fantastic elements, which eventually acquire a surreal character: "roasted rain with cooked snow"; "bitter honey with sweet horseradish." ... What we are dealing with is a comment on the hurly-burly, hodge-podge nature of American life, where strange foods are bolted down indiscriminately."
I didn't think I'd be able to find the tune for this song. At the end of the introductory verse, though, appear the English words "Bill of Fare," and since when Yiddish lyricists wrote parodies of English language songs they often referenced the original song in some way...

...  I searched this title at the Library of Congress site and found two songs called "Bill of Fare." The song lyrics in the American Yiddish Penny Songs collection fit the 1885 song by Karl Merz which you can look at here. Here are his lyrics:

Lobster sauce and chicken fried, turtle soup and turkey boiled,
Roasted goose or mutton steaks, oysters stewed or flannel cakes
Chicken salad leg of lamb, fried potatoes and roasted ham.
Oysters pickled cabbage boiled, apple dumplings pigeons broiled
Beefsteak, salmon, onion sauce, roast beef, pork and codfish balls
Spinach lettuce radies, omelet, tongue and sausages!
Apple pie or butter cakes, custard cold or scrambled eggs
Salmon rolled or oysters fried, watermelon, cherries dried,
Orange cream or marmalade, gingerbread this morning made,
Coffee, tea, or lady cake, Ladies, Gents, what will ye take?

Since Bill of Fare is very similar to (though not as surreal as) Mayn vaybs apetit I decided to set the Yiddish words to this tune.

The arrangement available at the Library of Congress is for four equal voices. I rearranged it for three voices and sang them all myself. It would have been much better to have actual real people sing with me, but I don't know anybody I could ask to do it! It also would have been better if I'd done it at a studio where you can use automatic pitch correction! But it's what it is, another living room recording, the best I could do.



I imagine what an immigrant Jew of humble origins would think of the Merz Bill of Fare, and of the outrageous varieties of foods available on the streets and in the restaurants of Coney Island! America, you land of plenty!
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Baym breg fun mer (On the Banks of the Wabash Far Away) - Yiddish parody of a very famous song of 1897


In 1897 Paul Dresser published "On the Banks of the Wabash Far Away" and the song was incredibly popular: in its first year 500,000 copies of the sheet music were sold and the eventual revenue topped $100,000. It became the Indiana state song and the title of a movie.

I've started pawing through about 20 issues of a self-evidently titled publication, Lider Magazin (Song Magazine) full of Yiddish theater lyrics, printed at the turn of the 20th century. (They are housed at YIVO). It seems pretty obvious that the new Jewish immigrants were hungry to join in with American pop culture and, since they didn't know the language yet, the Hebrew Publishing Company paid coupletists to write Yiddish versions of famous English language songs.

I found some of the penny songs in the magazines. A a lot of the material skews older and less sarcastic than the penny song collection from Hebrew Union College. Isaac Reingold, who wrote this parody, would not later have written such a sappy Yiddish version of a sappy song.

Reingold uses the French word mer which means sea, but there are trees, not sand, and altogether the song seems more about a river.

Also, look what happens when a girl goes out with a new guy - she ends up almost immediately in the cemetery. Did our protagonist kill her? Did the new guy kill her? Or was it just one of those things? I guess her death is the reason for the shrek and ume which otherwise seem rather out of place!

Aviva Enoch came over yesterday and recorded the keyboard parts for three of these songs. Thanks, Aviva!




Words and translation after the jump.


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