Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

23 Skidoo: A Yiddish vaudeville song teaching American pop culture to Jewish immigrants

Here is the cover of the Yiddish Penny Song called "23 Skidoo" - sung with great success in all Varieties by the beloved coupletist Mr. Gus Goldstein. To sing with the melody Rum Tulet.

So this is one of several songs in the collection that explains American words and slang to Yiddish speakers. Here's a lovely article about this catchphrase: 23 Skidoo in Wikipedia. (It basically means "get lost.")

Probably Mr. Gus Goldstein, coupletist, wrote these verses himself. I kind of love how his text careens from (verse one) "young people these days" to (verse two) a guy who mistakenly thinks he can cadge off his homies forever to (3) a gloss on the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5.

FAU has a lot of his recordings (but not this one) including a song which is annoyingly spelled Ye ch'ob nit kein Panenis (Yes I have no bananas)

To revive this song one I had to figure out what Rum Tulet is. It turned out to be an unbearably non-P.C. song from 1908 written by Artie Hall. I am not going to tell you want it's about, you can find out for yourself if you care.


Pianist Aviva Enoch does not like to be on screen, so I have to lip-synch songs I do with her afterwards. I'm still experimenting with green screening - sadly the software seems to consider both my hat and my hair to be green and makes them disappear from time to time. Click on the picture below to hear our version:


N.B. - Incredibly, there is a whole blog devoted to "23 Skidoo Postcards" and here is one of their images and my translation of the Yiddish song into English (after the jump):




There's an expression you hear in town now, from everybody's mouth
In every shop, in every house, in every dancing school
Just come now and listen to a girl or boy
You can be sure this is how they'll answer you:

"Mister, Skidoo!" This is their expression these days.
Mister, Skidoo - it's very well known
They don't look at anything, it goes this way with them,
They always just love to say "Mister, Skidoo!"

Broke, I moved in with a couple from my old hometown.
I intended to live there a long time and not pay rent.
I'd been living there a month - or four - already...
Suddenly my landlady comes and says to me:

Mister, Skidoo! You can't stay here any more!
Mister, Skidoo! Go to hell!
You want to gobble food and guzzle booze and you don't have any money.
Quickly pack up your trunk - and Mister? Skidoo!

Remember the big war between Russia and Japan?
How "Ivan" imagined he'd swallow Japan right up?
But when he'd stuck his foot right into the heart of Japan
Japan got angry and said this:

Pig, skidoo! Clear out! and fast!
Pig, skidoo! You're getting an idea.
I'm telling you nicely: you shouldn't be here.
If you want your bones all in one piece, Ivan: Skidoo!





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

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