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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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Mayn vayb iz in der country, hurray! Yiddish theater song recorded by William Schwartz in 1919

Feast your eyes on the dishy singer William Schwartz. You can read about him at a post about one of his other songs: Oy oy di vayber. He's also the singer of Hit aykh, meydlekh!.

AKA Mein Weib is in der Country Huray! and Mein Weib is in der Country Hurray!

For decades this trope: working men sent their families out to "the country" (perhaps the Catskills) ostensibly for the healthier air and curative life - while they gloated to be at home on the Lower East Side without their wives to hold them back from favorite ... pursuits. The other side of this was men fearing the wives out in the country were having ... too good a time. Sometimes coming home pregnant.

Two more songs on this subject are Gevald di mantens (1923, Adolph King) and Mayn vayb kumt fun Zakopane (1929, a local favorite in Warsaw Poland)

So, this song: The first delight is the tune, a combination of a cake-walk and a march.

The second delight is the multitude of Yinglish words to wallow in, just feast your eyes on them after the jump!

Best of all is this: "Tsu hobn a vayb, dos iz der grester misteyk, ikh leb atsinder punkt vi Got in Passaic."

The original phrase (which I discussed here: In Odess) was: Men lebt vi Got in Odess, that is, "one lives as God lives in Odessa." It was used to describe a place where unbelievers and those intent on licentious behavior can cavort freely because God is paying no attention - and he's paying no attention because he's on holiday among them, and he's chosen Odessa as his dream destination because nobody will bother him there.

Here, Isidore Lillian has deemed Passaic, New Jersey to be the New World's Odessa. Hahahahaha.

(If my interpretation is wrong I'm sure somebody will correct me.)


Without further ado, have a listen!



This kind of awful (but wonderful to listen to) song came from the show of the same name by Joseph Rumshinsky (Rumshisky) and Boris Thomashefsky, at the National Theatre. The sheet music was published in 1918 and shows that Isidor Lillian wrote the words and Thomashefsky sang the song in the show with Kalman Juvelier. I couldn't find a recording of their duet. Words (transliteration from the Yiddish and translation) after the jump.

>>>>>READ MORE >>>>>

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Male vos men redt af dem stoop (You never know what they'll be saying on the stoop)

(Click for an enlargement)

The music you see here was published in 1917 as Malle vus men redt auf dem stoop and it was recorded by Anna Hoffman in 1918. Words and music by Louis Friedsell.

I have long confused the word male with meyle. Male, used before an interrogative word, means "who cares, go figure, there’s no telling." Male vos er zogt means "pay no attention to what he says!" So this song title could also be translated, "Pay no attention to what they say on the stoop." What a song of the Lower East Side this is!

My aunt lived in a studio apartment in Manhattan for decades and she often talked about life lived out on the front stoop (even into the 1980s she didn't have an air conditioner). She spoke approvingly of "stoop babies" - infants who were so used to being passed from hand to hand among neighbors sitting out on the stoops together that they didn't care whose arms they were in. It makes me nostalgic just thinking about it.

So here is Anna Hoffman:

Transliteration and translation from the Yiddish after the jump.

>>>>>READ MORE >>>>>

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Company (Kompani) - a Yiddish theater song from 1905

Early last year I recorded a parody based on this melody, Vos hot men tsu mir? In fact it was the title song of my cd by the same name.

Yesterday I got around to recording the original song (using the same piano track from before).

The 1905 Boris Thomasefsky show was "The Yiddish Yankee Doodle," Di yidisher yenki dudl. Louis Friedsel wrote the words and music.

The song, like many others, seeks to explain an English word to Jewish immigrants eager to understand the "Golden Land's" prevailing language. In this case, the first verse shows that any old Yankl with a soda stand can call himself a company. In the second verse, "keeping company" leads to adverse consequences for a loose young woman. In the third verse, bedbugs comprise an unwelcome kind of company.

Here's yesterday's recording:



Transliteration and translation after the jump.

>>>>>READ MORE >>>>>

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Aza mazl afn Keyser! (The Kaiser should have my luck) - Yiddish theater song from 1918

Left is Samuel Rosenstein, who produced Gelebt un Gelakht (Live and Laugh) and, as the son Julius, sang this song in the show.

At the outbreak of World War I New York Jews were against the allies because their archenemy Nicholas II of Russia was one of them. However, by the time this song was written Nicholas had been overthrown and the Russians had left the war. Then they saw that Kaiser Wilhelm was no prize and by the time America threw in with the Allies, the Jews were on board, as this song shows.

Also transliterated Aza mazel aufin kaiser and Aza mazl auf'n Keiser.

I couldn't find a recording of it so I sang it myself last night.



Words (transliteration and translation of the Yiddish) after the jump.

>>>>>READ MORE >>>>>

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Guter bruder, nit gekhapt - a Yiddish song about fighting sexual harassment sung by Pepi Litmann c 1907

Also seen as Giter Bruder nicht gechapt, Giter brider nisht gechapt, and Giter Brüder nicht gechapt, this song was published in 1907 and, along with the previous song on the blog, is from the Professor Hurwitz show Malke Shvo (Queen of Sheba).

In that show it was sung by "Madame Shapiro" but I found only this 78 by Pepi Littman...

(Incidentally, the flip side is Norbert Glimer singing that weird and wonderful song Yente di Royte -- aka Jent di roiti kom, Yentl die roti kom -- which I posted on the PolishJewishCabaret.com blog.)

The song title is weirdly translated online as I Don Not Have a Good Brother.  

Khapn means to catch, grab, grasp (meaning) ... hurry, rush. So כאַפּט נישט is translated in the dictionary as "Not so fast! Take it easy!"

I found the second line odd. מיען זיך means to strive, take pains, trouble oneself, and מיִען זיך פֿאַר means "intercede on behalf of." I tentatively chose this last meaning. If the grandmother is deceased, then she can intercede in behalf of her granddaughter with the Master of the Universe.

In another Pepi Littmann song previously posted here, Mener, Mener, she sang in passing: "If a man insults me, let him not deceive himself, I'll shame him with some fine blows." Here the threats are vociferous and prolonged.

The melody of this song is fascinating, it's sort of pentatonic.

Pepi generally dressed in men's clothing onstage. She had a great voice. Here she is singing Guter bruder:


Transliteration and translation after the jump.

>>>>>READ MORE >>>>>

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Men vet dir nit mitgebn in keyver arayn (You don't get anything to take into the grave with you) Yiddish theater song

It seems there was a song like this in most Yiddish operettas, a song in which the rich man is warned he will get his comeuppance. I think the Yiddish theater audience was mostly poor people and they wanted to think there would be justice ... eventually.

The song is from the show Malke Shvo (The Queen of Sheba) by Shundmeister Hurwitz, it came out in 1907 and the music was published in 1913. The original singer was Madame Shapiro. The words are by Anshel Shor, the music is by Joseph Brody.

I put an original recording sung by Sam Stern on Youtube: Men vet dir keinsach nit mit geben in keivir arein ...

... it's also transcribed as Men wet dir nit mitgeben in keiver, Men Wet Dir Kein Sach nit mitgeben in Kever arein, and Men Vet Dir Kein Sach Nit Mit Geben In Keiver Arein ...

... Sam sang only the first verse, and because it is a fun song, and it's almost Halloween, I decided to record it myself this morning with both verses. Here it is:


While I was singing it I was thinking about one who will not be named, but who is a

שאַנד און שמאַך

SHAME AND DISGRACE UPON OUR COUNTRY

Transliteration and translation after the jump.

>>>>>READ MORE >>>>>

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

HIt aykh, meydlekh! (Beware, girls!) Yiddish theater song sung by William Schwartz, 1922

Transliterated as Hit eich and Hit aich meidelach (Girls beware), the song was published in 1922. Music Sholom Secunda, lyrics Anshel Shorr, who wrote the show it was from: An oyg far an oyg (An Eye for an Eye).

As usual, a girl who does not stay home quietly obeying her mother ends up in the hospital. The wages of sin...

In the show, Dora Weissman sang the song, but on this unfortunately awful sounding 78 it's sung by the magnificent William Schwartz. Hit aykh, meydelekh!


When I was just a child, I remember as if it were today,
I used to run around every minute with boys, playing in the street.
Laughing, fooling around, it wasn't nice.
That's what I've always been drawn to.
And sometimes I went to the movies and mother didn't know.
And when I went home, exhausted, so tired,
She sat me on her lap and sang me this song:

Girls, if life is dear to you, don't run around after a "good time"
Girls, protect yourselves as from fire. Kids, don't run away from home.
Girls, don't run along the evil path, because the shock will be too much for you.
Don't sell your innocence, girls, protect it like the eyes in your head.

I knew a girl, Rose, from a very respectable home,
She fell in love with a charlatan who promised to be her husband.
Her mother didn't like him. She ran away from home with him.
He promised her a wedding and seduced her. It was terrible.
Now she's lying sick in the hospital with a high fever.
And her mother hears how her feverish child sings a sad song:





For sheet music and/or performances contact me: jane@mappamundi.com

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