Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Monday, April 13, 2015

Donkey Monkey Business! A big Yiddish theater hit for Bessie Tomashefsky!

Bessie Tomashefsky
Another odd song from the turn of the 20th century. Prior to finding this in the Yiddish Penny Song Collection, I had never heard of donkey monkey business. Was this slang of the day? Or was it invented for this song?
Bessie Tomashefsky
Look at this fantastic sheet music cover!

In Yiddish it's "Donki Monki Biznes" -- "as sung by the most popular Hebrew soubrette Mrs. Bessie Tomashefsky of Peoples Theatre New York in the show Di Grine Kinder" with the music being by Louis Friedsel. (On the next page they spell his name Louis Friedsell.)




Jeez, these songs are really long. These three verses go on for 4-1/2 minutes and there is a fourth verse too...

The way we did these videos (this one and Yaaka Hula Hickey Du): Jim Baird and Ken Bloom came over, I handed them the sheet music, we practiced the song a couple times, then they played live while I ran the video camera and mouthed the words (because I only have two good mics). I recorded the vocals today.

The word link which I had until now only known as the left as in leftist politics, also means illicit or the off side, like the wrong side of the fabric. Hmmph.

Here's my translation:



I have some advice, listen, it will be useful to you
Hear me out, I'll tell you a fine thing
You should be careful on the streets around here
Listen what I'm saying
Cheap collars, golden bargains,
Don't buy any of them
If somebody tells you he has such a bargain for you
So cheap, less than he himself paid for it! he swears to God
But don't believe a word of it,
because this is business of a different kind


This is donkey monkey business, yes it is.
The business is a very fine one - for crooked businessmen
This is donkey monkey business, donkey monkey business
Everybody knows donkey monkey business is ok around here

Look and consider, late at night,
That guy standing there in a corner
Until it gets dark he doesn't budge from his spot
When everything is sleeping he gets a move on
He lingers near a suitable place:
Near a wealthy house, hovering, quiet as a mouse
That's watching out for a cat
He looks all around
He pushes the window, it opens quickly
A fine, quiet success! He enters without a peep.
Naturally, this "sport" is a businessman.
Want to guess what kind of business he has here?

My girlfriend Line, she's no newbie, she's quite a girl.
She sings beautifully, she gulps oysters,
She's no sucker.
She has a sweetheart,
She goes to lots of picnics and balls.
In the summer she sweats, at night she sits
With her "boy" by the door.
Late at night when everything's sleeping
The boy takes her to her door
Because she's afraid to go alone at night
So he goes with her.
They stand there for an hour or two.
What's their business in the hallway?


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

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is a great picture of Bessie!

April 17, 2015 at 7:32 AM  

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