Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Di neshome fun mayn folk (The soul of my people) - a hit for Simon Paskal in 1912

I'm not going to say Boris Thomashefsky was egotistical, but just look at how often his name appears on this title page for the sheet music. Click for a larger view so you can count. And his picture right there in the middle. Oh well, I hear he was an incredible heart-throb. He was his own brand, like Oprah.

Morris Rund was just as fond of his own name and image. Check out the cover of his rip-off broadside - found in the American Yiddish Penny Songs collection. And he didn't even write the song! He just flogged it on the street. You don't usually see the photos of distributors on the front cover of the things they distribute.

Again note his cute advertisement for his own song-sheet business: "Sing and the world sings with you, send 25 cents in stamps and receive 30 different songs."

I found this song's lyric touching, brave and also somehow child-like. Even after centuries of persecution, there was still an innocence in this defiance - an optimism that would, not long after, be destroyed by the Holocaust.

Here's Simon Paskal's recording, the hit from Thomashefky's 1911 show Di neshome fun mayn folk, oder, Der ungarisher zinger.

Other spellings include Die Neshome fin Mein Folk, Die neshomeh fun mein folk, die neshume fin mein folk, etc.

There's a really great instrumental version of this online from the Medem: Di neshome fun mayn folk played by the Abe Schwartz orchestra.

I was amused to read (but Boris probably didn't find it so funny) that in 1926 the entire operetta was stolen and republished in Warsaw, Poland as "Di neshome fun mayn folk (Di neshome fun yisrael), an operetta in four acts by N. Rakow [!], publisher M. Goldfarb"

Translation after the jump.

Don't be afraid, my friend, nobody can take your crown from you.
Your crown is your Torah, your strength, the name "Jew."
Your God protects you, your Torah defends you.
Your shield is from heaven, the tfilin crown you.
The tallis is your flag that protects you to this very day.
Carry the shield, friend, don't be afraid, and sing a song to your God, cry out that you are a Jew:

I don't need cannons or weapons
I don't need millions of soldiers
I wink at my God and press the Torah to my heart
I have more heroes than a thousand folk.
And my tfilin-crown and my tallis-flag
protect the soul of my people.

Two thousand years, my dear Jew,
have you been driven from your home
You withstand war, you never grow weary
Because you still have your strength
Lands lost, peoples lost,
And the Jew holds fast to his flag
He protects his crown, he holds to his flag
And sits in the seat of honor
God's light will come from heaven and shine, as long ago,
And with their song Jews will march from everywhere
To the land of Israel

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:

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