Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Link to comprehensive index and research notes
Youtube: all the Penny Songs I've recorded so far (with subtitles)

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Chicken: a cheerful sexist song by Rubin Doctor from 1922

This song and Ikh bin a boarder bay mayn vayb are probably Rubin Doctor's most famous songs. It was recorded by several people back in the day including Nellie Casman, and unlike most of the penny songs, it continues to be recorded to this very day, probably because people who don't know any Yiddish are happy to recognize the word "chicken" in the lyrics.

The tune was co-opted a decade later in Poland for a song recorded by Sam Goldberg and also by Betty Koenig. Click to read about it and hear it on my other blog: Meydlekh

The second verse is, like many songs of its era, disrespectful to women. Henry Sapoznik wrote a different second verse when his band recorded it back in the 1980s.

Anna Hoffman, the singer here, is possibly Annie Hoffman-Schneider was born April 15 1882 in Odessa and died August 3 1984, buried at Mount Hebron Cemetery.

Here's her version of the song:


Words (translation) and transliteration after the jump, and the photo of Anna Hoffman, after the jump.



Ikh veys fun a guter zakh
Vos iz gut far ale glaykh
A chicken, oy, oy a chicken.
Geyt ir af a simkhe, a bris
Est nor nit keyn fleysh, keyn fish
est chicken, est nor a chicken.
Keyn mol vet ir zikh baklogn
Dreyen vet aykh nit der mogn
Un baym hartsn vet aykh keyn mol drikn.
Libe mentshn, folg mayn fraynt
Vilt ir zayn gezunt un fayn
Est chicken, est nor a chicken.

Chicken, chick chick chick chicken
S'iz a maykhl vus vet aykh derkvikn
A pulke, a fis a shtikl beylik
S'iz geshmak dos yeder kheylik
Chicken, chick chick chick chicken.

Meydlekh zaynen ikh bakant
Un me ruft zey do in land, chicken
Yeder hall un yeder stoop kukt oys vi a chicken coop
Mit chicken
An alte moyd fun fertsik yorn, dar un mies un opgeforn
Paint un powder un ale zibn glikn


I know a good thing, it's good for everyone: chicken.
Go to a celebration, a bris, don't eat meat or fish, just chicken.
You'll never complain, it won't knot up your stomach, it won't give you heartburn.
Dear people, obey my plan, you'll be happy and healthy: eat chicken.

Chicken, it's a dish that will delight you.
A thigh, a leg, a bit of the breast, every part is delicious. Chicken.

I know girls, here in American they call them chicks.
Every hall and every stoop looks like a chicken coop. With chicken.
An old maid, 40 years old, skinny and ugly and shabby
With makeup and powder and everything else,
She catches a young guy newly arrived here and tells him she's a spring chicken.



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

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