Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Alts far gelt (The original version as written by Aaron Lebedeff in 1923)

1923 (the last year when music published in America is unquestionably in the public domain) is kind of the dividing line between this blog and the later songs I post on PolishJewishCabaret.com ... Alts far gelt, this cynical Yiddish song, was issued on that cusp, in 1923, by Aaron Lebedeff.

The fine picture on the right was drawn by Sam Zagat, it was a political cartoon published in the Warheit in 1917.

A generation later Henry Gerro added an introduction and wrote his own couplets and I posted his version on the other side: Henri Gerro sings Alts far gelt. You'll find it spelled Als far geld or Alles far geld or Alz for gelt or any combination you can think of.

Sheva Zucker and I tried to pick the words off the scratchy Lebedeff recording we had access to, but it was frustrating work, and then I remembered to look in Irene Heskes' guide, and the song was there, so I was able to get the original manuscript from Copyright Office. I deciphered it last week and recorded the song today.


Translation and transliteration after the jump.


Far gelt vet aykh libn a yeder
Far gelt halt men eytses mit aykh
Far gelt krigt ir koved keseyder
Far gelt tsit men di hitel far aykh
Far gelt zayt ir bay yedn tayer
Far gelt hot aykh yederer lib
Far gelt vet men loyfn in fayer
Un far gelt iz afile in grib

Alts far gelt nor far gelt, dos bisele mezumen
Alts far gelt un nor far gelt kent ir alts bakumen
S'iz keyn zakh ikh shver far aykh
Ven ir hot gelt un ir zent raykh
Oy (vey) vayl dos gantse velt hot lib dos bisl gelt

Far gelt vert ir fun mies sheyn
Far gelt vert ir fun narish klug
Far gelt hot ir bay yedn kheyn
Far gelt hot ir seykhl genug
Far gelt hot ir sheyne karetn
Far gelt lebt ir zikh zeyer sheyn
Far gelt est ir gute kotletn
Un far gelt trinkt ir dem bestn vayn

Far gelt oykh an altitshke dame
Far gelt krigt zi a yungitshkn fraynt
Far gelt zogt er ir ketsele, mame,
Far gelt kusht der bokher ir hant
Far gelt makht er ir komplimentn
Far gelt hot zi bay im oykh a vert
Far gelt koyft er ir oykh prezentn
Nor on gelt shikt er zi tif in dr'erd

Because of money everybody will love you
Because of money people ask your advice
Because of money you always are respected
Because of money people tip their hats to you
Because of money you're dear to everyone
Because of money everybody loves you
For money you'll run into fire
And for money, you'll run even into the grave

Everything for money, only money, the little bit of cash
Everything for money, it's only money that'll get you everything
I swear to you, there's nothing to it, if you have money and you're rich
Because the whole world loves the little bit of money

With money, if you're ugly you become beautiful
With money, if you're stupid you become clever
With money, you have charm for everyone
With money, you have enough wisdom
With money, you have lovely carriages
With money, you live very beautifully
With money, you eat good cutlets
And with money you drink the best wine

Because of money, an old lady
Because of money, she procures a young friend
Because of money he calls her kitten, mama,
Because of money he kisses her hand
Because of money he compliments her
Because of money she's valuable to him
Because of money he buys her presents, too,
But without money he sends her to the devil.


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

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