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, April 24, 2018

Tsores iz keyn dayge nit from the Professor Horowitz opera יציאת מצרים

This song is transliterated as Zores is kain daige nit and Zores is kain dauge nit and the show it's from, the 1920 "Professor" Moses Horowitz opera יציאת מצרים (Exodus) is transliterated Yzias Mizrajum and Yzias mizrajim.

On the front cover it says the words are by Professor Horowitz and the music is by Perlmutter and Wohl, but inside it says "by Anshel Shor."

There is a third verse but as it is 100% knee-jerk misogyny, I omitted it. If you must sing about wives with big noses and no money, go find the sheet music at the Library of Congress site and sing it yourself.

Here is the version I did today:


Translation and transliteration after the jump.

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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Yidishe Kazatzke

Let's start off with transcription hell. How something is spelled was less of an issue before Google. But now, if you can't spell it you can't find it.

The dance form here, the kazatzke, was not Jewish in origin. On Youtube you can find Ukrainians and Russians dancing the казачок (Little Cossack) which theoretically would be transcribed Kazachok but is also Kozachok Kozachock Cassatschok Casatschok Kozáček - and they are often dancing to the nationalistic 1938 Soviet "folksong" Катюша (Katyusha Katusha Katjuscha Katiusha Katjusha) - a song which inspired the nickname of the Red Army rocket launchers of World War II.

A characteristic of the dance: those with strong ankles squat low to the ground and kick their feet forward.According to a quick peek at Wikipedia, the dance dates back to the late 16th and 17th century.

Recently Amanda (Miryem-Khaye) Seigel was looking for Jewish versions of this dance and I remembered seeing this offering from the prolific Joseph Rumshisky (later Rumshinsky), published in 1920. It's got its own transliteration problems. In Yiddish on the cover it is דער אידישער קאַזאַק (transliterated as Yudishe kazatzke) while on the lyrics page it is אידישער קאָזאַטשאָק (Yudisher kozachok).

You may think all this talk about transliteration is boring, but you'd be amazed how many people write to me looking for songs which are actually easily findable - but under a different transliteration. Some of the transliterations pass all understanding. Some are just ridiculous typos. You have to be imaginative.

Jeff Warschauer writes:
The melody starts with a popular broyges tants motif. Ruth Rubin also collected alternative lyrics for that broyges tants melody. The lyrics are about a daughter who is too young to go to the khupe.

This is what's sometimes called a macaronic song - it mixes Yiddish, Russian, and Hebrew. Here is the lyrics page from the sheet music (click for a larger view):



Musically I felt the sheet music presented a problem. Typically a kozatzke is quicker toward the end, but in this song the second half was considerably slower than the first! There is no archival recording to be found - or maybe there is one but it's hiding under an odd spelling! Provisionally I just decided to double-time the second page. Here's my very hasty recording from a couple days ago:


By the way, in the early 1930s came Tsirele Mirele, one of my favorite songs from the Itzik Zhelonek Yiddish theater songs collection, Aaron Lebedeff coaxes his sweetheart back into a good mood and suggests that she should "dance the kozatske like a boy" ...

Transliteration and translation after the jump.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Ven ikh zol vider kenen zayn a kind (If I could be a child again) sung by Nellie Casman in 1918

This is my favorite picture of Nellie Casman, born in 1896 in Russia. Her family soon moved to America and she was raised in Philadelphia.

Her Yiddish was not native and she got scolded for it, but when she went to Europe the audiences were so enchanted they forgave her.

This song is transliterated on the sheet music as When ich zol wider kenen sein a kind and on the 78 itself as Wen Ich Zol Vieder Kenen Zain A Kind.

I like the word smotshken (sometimes tsmotshken) which is surely related to the English word "smooch" (dating back to the 1570s perhaps via the German variant schmutzen).

All her best songs are full of Yinglish. This one has the same plot as the famous English song "I Wish They'd Do It Now."

Lyrics and translation after the jump.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Ikh bin arayngegangen un zikh oysgedreyt un aroysgegangen tsurik (I went in, turned around and went back out again) Yiddish theater song by Isidore Lillian

I can't tell you anything about this song except that it was published in 1917 and it was written by Isidore Lilian and Joseph Rumshisky (Rumshinsky)...

... and the sheet music says it was sung by Mr. Natansohn. It was in my folder of "songs to record some day" and yesterday was the day. I was experimenting with my Logitech webcam.



I love the Yinglish in this song. "Ikh hob mayn mind gechanged." Sweet.

Words and translation after the jump. I omitted two (to me) offensive verses.

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Gotenyu, gib dos redele a drey (God, turn the wheel) - 1916 Yiddish theater song.

Yiddish music and literature often refers to the wheel of fortune, and reminds us, for instance, that luck and money are "round" - one day they roll to us, the next day they roll away. This song was published in 1916, words by Louis Gilrod, music by Joseph Rumshisky. Sung in Max Gabel's show "A Girl's Revenge" by the very young Henrietta Jacobson. Spelled "Gotteniu gib a dreh dus redele" on the sheet music.

Max Gabel was born in 1877 in Western Galicia. When he was 11 his father died and he and his mother and sister whent to America. He worked in a factory but also wrote pieces for the Yiddish Theater.

In 1895 Gabel became a professional actor and his work became widely staged. He married Jennie Goldstein when she was only 16. He is credited with having written 120 plays and he died in Los Angeles in 1952.

I could not find a period recording of this song so here is the recording I made this morning:






Lyrics and translation after the jump.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Yeder eyner straykt atsind! (Everybody is striking now!) Yiddish theater hit from 1920

The composer is Herman Wohl, the lyricist is Louis Gilrod though as usual Boris Thomashefsky gives himself credit. The song is from a show called "The Two Cantors" (the two cantors were originally played by David Kessler and Boris Thomashefsky). It says on the sheet music that Sam Kasten sang this song.

I'm sort of in love with the corrupted mish mash of language here. Gestraykt is Yinglish and look at all the other examples: paykers, straykers, kars, eleveters, sobveys, steyk, frayt petetis, "voking delegat" (a walking delegate is "a labor union representative appointed to visit members and their places of employment, to secure enforcement of union rules and agreements, and at times to represent the union in dealing with employers")...

... and union of course, and box. I assumed that "the bosses are in the box" means they are trapped. Oh, and note Gilrod rhymes "Karl Marx" with "box." Hah hah.

Here is the handsome Yiddish theater star, singer Sam Kasten.

I couldn't find his recording of this song, or any recording, though it says at the bottom of the sheet music: "Phonograph records will be issued shortly." So here is my rendition from yesterday. If the fiddle sounds strange it's because I sang the song in six flats and then realized that was not a wonderful key for the violin.





The show was written by (Hershl) Harry Kamanowitz. From the Museum of Family History:
Harry Kalmanowitz was born around 1886 in Dubrov, Polish Lithuania. His father traded in grains, but not being able to earn a living, he went off to America "searching for luck." After working four years in a shop, he returned home but that didn't work out, so he went back to America, then back to Dubrov. The third time, in 1900, he brought his son Hershel (Harry).

Harry sold newspapers and in the evening "peddled candy." Later he sewed knee-pants. He begged his father for fifteen cents every Friday, so he could visit the Yiddish vaudeville. When he was 17 he wrote a sketch for Aaron Mogenbesser, a vaudeville star, but due to a strike it was never performed. Harry wrote in his autobiography:

"In the shop I was caught in the powerful hand that oppressed me for sixteen years; thus I had the opportunity to study my brother-workers with all of their sufferings and freedoms. I have seen him laugh when his soul has wailed, I know him with all his strengths and defects, and have a deep love for him. Almost all of my children (comedies and dramas) are from worker's lives.

Lyrics and translation after the jump.

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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.

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