Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Friday, April 15, 2016

A nar zol men nit zayn (Don't be a fool) - good advice from Mr. Margolies

Here is the broadside cover (click for a larger view). It says, "To the very famous melody A mentsh zolstu nor zayn" which is more commonly known as A mentsh zol men zayn, oder, Mit gelt tor men nit shtoltsirn. I note that it says at the bottom, "Reproduction forbidden," though I bet the folks forbidding you to make copies did not themselves ask permission to steal this melody. 

The lyrics here are by Margolis|Margulies|Margolies - probably the same one who wrote Dos greste umglik fun der shif Titanic.

A couple years ago Ken Bloom and Jim Baird of my band Mappamundi stopped by and recorded the original song with me:



Now I'm using their same old tracks as backup to the new song. So here we are, Jim and Ken from a couple years ago and me from yesterday:


I sang just the second and third verses. Here's the whole song, with translation. There are some things in here I did not understand, so I took a stab at them anyway; if you have improvements please let me know. When the newly minted dentist wants to get rid of his girlfriend, who's been faithfully supporting him, he says "bney odem" - what you say when you swing the kapore around your head and let everything go.


A yede zakh af der velt vos nor eyner vil tun
Zukht men profit fun ayer geld fun aykh nutsn tsien
Ven eyner shvert aykh gor on a sof
Gloybt im oykh nit, es iz a blof
Kukt aykh gut arum frier
Ven nit, hot ir tsores on shir
Hert gut un zet, baklert un farshteyt,
Den shpeter ken shoyn zayn shpet.

Dos iz dokh far aykh vikhtik Tsu zayn tomed farzikhtik
Badenkt aykh gut tsi iz a plan before ir falt aran
Den ir muzt farshteyn men zukht aykh tsu fardreyen
Gloyb nor keynem, nemt keyn blof nit, keyn nar zol men nit zayn.

An arbeter fardint gute gelt un makht a fayn lebn gants sheyn
Vil er farshirn di gantse velt, vil er zikh dem kop fardreyen
Er banugnt zikh nit mit zayn payday Makht er dos vayb far a biznes lady
In biznes vert zi ufgeklert der man hot zi dan in der erd
Er arbet un plog keyn vayb oy a klog
Un zi lebt a gutn tog!

A meydl plogt zikh biter shver zi vert in shop farvist
Khasene hobn vil zi nit mer nor saydn mit a dentist
Im oysgehaltn etlikhe yor di 'veydzhes' git zi im avek gor
Ven er krigt aroys a diplom zogt er mit ir bney adom
Zi zet nit keyn shan zi hot keyn nadan keyn khosn oykh nit keyn man.

Everything in the world that you might want to do,
They're going to seek to profit from your money and use you
When somebody swears something endlessly
Don't believe him, it's a bluff
First look around carefully - if you don't you'll have troubles forever
Listen and watch, think and understand,
Because later it may be too late.

This is important: you should always verify.
Think carefully if somebody's making a trap before you fall in.
You have to understand, people are trying to mess you up.
Don't believe anybody, don't fall for any bluff, don't be a fool.

A worker earned good money and had a fine life
He wanted to cut the whole world, he wanted to be impressive.
He wasn't satisfied with his wages so he made his wife go into business
That didn't work out well, so he damned her to hell.
He works and laments and complains
And she's living the good life!

A maiden was bitterly plagued by her miserable sweatshop life.
She would only marry - a dentist!
She supported him for a few years, she gave him her wages.
When he gets his diploma he throws her away like the sacrificial chicken.
She's no beauty, she has no dowry, no boyfriend or husband.


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

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