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Sunday, May 3, 2015

A froy in mayn shikzal iz shuldik (A Woman is to Blame for my Fate!) - Yiddish vaudeville song to the tune of "She is more to be pitied than censured."

Yiddish sheetmusicThe American popular song She is more to be pitied than censured is used for three different tragic songs in the American Yiddish Penny Songs collection: The Death of Franz Josef, The Song from after the Fire, and this one, A Woman is to Blame for my Fate.

Click the picture to hear the version pianist Aviva Enoch and I recorded this week (with English subtitles).

In the original song, young men mock a fallen woman and are reproved by an old woman who says: "That pore girl she just took a wrong path, and remember, a man was the cause of it all." In the second verse the girl is already dead, she didn't get to enjoy her fallen pleasures for very long. (In the late 19th century I guess men were desperate to keep women down, desperate enough to threaten transgression with death.)

Aviva and I found this lilting 6/8 tune in a major key a very strange choice for tragedy.

Moshe (Moyshe) Ratner is the lyricist. He was born around 1875 in Rumania and as a very young man was already writing for Yiddish variety theatres in Rumania; he became famous across Rumania, Germany and Galicia as a singer and coupletist. He emigrated to New York in 1900 and continued writing operettas, songs and couplets. I've already recorded his Di New Yorker trern on this blog, and his Dos fishele on my other blog (Polish Jewish Cabaret).

Somehow Ratner couldn't make ends meet; demoralized, he took to drink, which killed him when he was around 35 years old.

Here's my translation:

In a courtroom in front of a judge stands a man, ragged and weak.
The judge asked the policeman: why did you make the arrest?
"I found him, dead drunk, wandering in the street, a total mess."
The judge asked, "Is this true?" Hear what the man said:

"A woman is to blame for my fate! A woman ruined my life.
A woman is to blame for my fate! A woman whom I dressed in gold.
She gave me poison in the guise of honey, she was worse than a forest serpent,
A devil darkened my life, a devil in the figure of a woman!

The judge sympathised with him and said "you're free to go."
Everyone was moved by the scene they all had just witnessed
"The judge will help him reform." The man burst out laughing wildly.
"How can a man make right that which a woman has destroyed?"

In bustling Central Park the man sat on a bench
He was nervous, frightened, his visage was sickly pale
Suddenly he makes a decision. One shot! and he falls to the earth
And these were the last words heard from the dying man:

Here's the original songsheet, click for larger view.

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:

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