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

About this project ♦ ♦ About Jane Peppler
List of the still-lost songs: do you know any of them?
Search the blog:

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Dem yidns laydn: Failure to find the underlying melody

You usually only hear from me when I've had a success. But there are loads of times I fail to find a melody despite heroic efforts. This is one of those times. Take a look at this songsheet:

Dem yidns laydn (The Jew's Suffering) to sing with the well-known English melody "Only a Jew." Created by Karol Zilberman

I have not found any mention of a Karol Zilberman. I was, however, able to locate the song "Only a Jew" and it's a good story.

From "From Tartan to Tartanry: Scottish Culture History and Myth":
Ike Freedman 1895-1960 "began performing as a Hebrew comedian, representing Jewish culture in the form of the 'dialect' character... Freedman's song, 'Only a Jew,' which became his signature and remained the culmination of his act throughout his career, was an emotive plea for compassion and understanding for the stateless, itinerant Jew.
From his obituary:
In an accent alternately and sometimes simultaneously Glaswegian and Jewish he would rattle off some Jewish jokes and conclude his act with a certain tear-jerker of a song, such as "Only a Jew" to great applause from his moist-eyed but delighted listeners.
I started hunting for this song and found, through Michael Aylward, a collector named Bill Dean Myatt who sent me this picture of Ike and some information including the following from one of Ike's descendants:

He was born as Isaac Solomon in 1895, in Wigan, the youngest of three sons of a tailor, Isaac Solomon and his wife _____ Sadarsky, who had come the area of Russia now known as Belarus at the age of six months. The family do not know why or when he took the stage surname Freedman, but he used this throughout his career, although at least once he used the name Ike Doti. The family had no stage connections but Ike, starting in the usual way, moved to Scotland and became, eventually, quite successful. The variety theatre where he appeared most often was the Royal Princess in Glasgow (now the Citizens) but he did appear all over Scotland and is rumoured to have worked in America on at least two occasions. Although he first appeared on stage in a quasi-Spanish costume he later adopted full evening dress, tails and black top-hat.

Bill Dean Myatt had actually owned the record "Only a Jew" but had given it to the Scottish National Archives. I began corresponding with that archive and they are among the worst I've ever dealt with in terms of releasing material that cannot possibly be under copyright: the song was written, by Moses Besso and John Lawson, in 1896. The librarian had me hunting (unsuccessfully) for cemetery records in Scotland to try and prove when Besso and Lawson had died. Two months and scores of emails later, at quite an expense, I received the song. And...


There was absolutely no way I could shoe-horn the melody of "Dem yidns laydn" into this melody.

Then I found this, in a book called From The Britannia Panopticon Music Hall and Cosmopolitan Entertainment Culture, by Paul Maloney:

In 1932 he recorded six songs from his repertoire for Beltona Records (Aberdeen) and the following year recorded a further six records, issued on the Regal label [see below for the complete list] ... He had a second song, "Just a Jew," with which he alternated it, and which fulfilled almost exactly the same emotive function. The chorus ran "Just a Jew! Just a Jew! With a heart and a soul just like you." Freedman always sang one or the other as the climax of his performance.
Maybe it's the melody of this OTHER song, "Just a Jew," which was used by Karol Silberman. But this song? Gone. No 78 or published music yet found anywhere among collectors or libraries. So, Dem yidns laydn remains forgotten for now.

Before you get sobbing about how extinct Ike Freedman's hit songs are, here is a sample.

Sheet music for "Only a Jew" published by Sandy Macgregor Publishing, Glasgow

Gentile or Jew they are both just the same
Though they may have a different creed
I've got a dad with a heart pure as gold
And a mother with love so divine
So why do they say that I'm only a Jew
When I'm one of God's own mankind.

And here is Dem yidns laydn (click for a larger view):

(rn. Isaac Solomon) (Wigan 1895 – Rothesay, 1960). Comedian with orchestra accomp.
(violin, cello, piano)
Recorded The Ballroom of the Music Hall, Union Street, Aberdeen, ca Tuesday, 29th. November 1932
M-14498-1 My little Yiddisher Irish girl (Morris) Beltona 1944, BL-1944
M-14499-1 Ikey Granitesteen from Aberdeen ( - ) Beltona 1911, BL-1911
M-14500-1 My Queen of Italy (I. Freedman; Billy Roy) Beltona 1927, BL-1927
M-14501-2 The Irish Italian Jew (I. Freedman) Beltona 1927, BL-1927
M-14502-2 Just a Jew (Morris) Beltona 1944, BL-1944
M-14503-1 Only a Jew (M. Besso; John Lawson) Beltona 1911, BL-1911

“Ike Freedman, The Scottish Hebrew gentleman”, with orchestra”
Recorded Glasgow, September 1933
WSC-15-1 Queen of Italy (Billy Roy) Regal Zonophone MR-1094
WSC-16-1 Only a Jew (Billy Roy) Regal Zonophone MR-1094
WSC-17-1 Romeo (Billy Roy) Regal Zonophone MR-1095
WSC-18-1 King of Palestine (Billy Roy) Regal Zonophone MR-1095
WSC-19-1 Just a Jew (Morris) Regal Zonophone MR-1096
WSC-20-1 Ikey on the hike (B. Smyth) Regal Zonophone MR-1096

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:


Post a Comment

<< Home