Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Vos hot men tsu mir? What do people have against me? Yiddish theater song

Louis Friedsel, Louis Friedsell, Yiddish theater music composer
Louis Friedsel (Louis Friedsell, Луис Фридзел) (1863-1923), who in 1905 wrote the song Company from which the melody was taken for this song, was born in Ukraine and came to America in 1890. He wrote the music for 150 operettas, don't you think he deserves an article in Wikipedia? I'm not going to say that the hundreds of songs he cranked out were unique gems and I thought this tune was kind of bland when I started out yesterday...

... but I felt quite a bit of affection for it by the time I finished recording (click to hear yesterday's rendition on Youtube):

So here's the cover for the Company sheet music, it's from a show called Der Yidisher Yenki-Dudl (The Jewish Yankee Doodle), a Boris Tomashevsky production.

This parody of Company, found in the American Yiddish Penny Songs collection, was written by Sam Dinerzon (maybe Sam Dinerson), a to-me unknown Yiddish singer. This photo of him appears on the song sheet.

The lyrics start out with your typical conceited young beauty and her travails...

... but the third verse startles: her neighbor makes a pass at her, she demurs, and then he takes a strop and beats her!! She's annoyed and in pain but simply says: why don't you beat your wife instead?

Violence against women and children was not unusual then. In my family, I disciplined my children with "time out" and steely glances, but I was spanked as a kid, and my father, in the 1920s and 1930s, was beaten with belts and sticks. He never seemed to think it cruel or unusual punishment.

Here are the lyrics:

Kh'bin a meydl zeyer a sheyne kh'zog aykh, an antik.
Boyes vern shir meshuge ven af mir men kik
Alte mener shmeykhlen oykh ven zey zen mikh glaykh
Men farfolgt mikh iberal vos tut men, ikh freg aykh!

Vos hot men tsu mir vos hot men tsu mir
Men loyft mir nokh a yeder trit in dem shop un in der strit,
Vos hot men tsu mir, vos hot men tsu mir
Hert uf zikhn mir nokh tsu krikhn vos hot ir tsu mir?

A border hot zikh undz farglust tsu nemen arayn in hoyz
Tsores hob ikh on a shir, gevald, vi halt men oys?
Ven ikh shlof in mayn tsimer her ikh vi men geyt
Ikh gib a kuk: es iz der border, bay mayn bet er shteyt

Vos hot men tsu mir, Vos hot men tsu mir?
Mister Border ikh freg vorum
Mayn bobe shloft in tsveytn "room"
Vos hot men tsu mir, Vos hot men tsu mir
A kush vil er, un gor nisht mer,
Vos hot men tsu mir?

Undzer shokhn fun 'next dor' tsu knaypn hot er lib
Ven er zet mikh nemt er knaypn biz ikh loyf in shtib
Biz ikh ver nit in kas un shelt im mit fardros
Khapt er zayn strop un nemt mikh shmaysn on a far vos

Vos hot men tsu mir, Vos hot men tsu mir?
Tsaykhens iz shoyn af mayn layb
Far vos shmayst ir nit ayere vayb?
Vos hot men tsu mir, Vos hot men tsu mir?
Es tut vey es bayst un er shmayst
Vos hot men tsu mir

I'm a very beautiful girl, just splendid.
Boys go crazy when they look at me.
Old men smile, too, when they see me.
I'm always being pestered, what can you do. I ask you!

What do people have against me?
They run after me everywhere, in the shops, in the streets.
What do people have against me?
Quit looking for me, stop creeping after me, what have you got against

A boarder wanted us to take him into our house.
I have endless troubles, gevald, how can one stand it?
I'm sleeping in my room, I hear some walking.
I take a look: it's the boarder, he's standing by my bed!

What do people have against me?
Mister Boarder, I ask: Why??
My granny is asleep in the other room.
What do people have against me?
He wants a kiss, that's all.
What do people have against me?

Our next door neighbor loves to pinch
When he sees me he takes to pinching me until I run into the house
Until I get angry and curse him in my aggravation
He grabs his strap and takes to beating me for no reason at all!

What do people have against me?
You've left marks on my skin.
Why don't you beat your wife instead?
What do people have against me?
It hurts, it stings, and he keeps hitting!
What do people have against me?

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:


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