Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Men ken lebn nor men lozt nit (You could live but they won't let you) sung by Gus Goldstein

Gus Goldstein (Gustav, Gustave) was born in Yasi Romania in 1884. He ran away from home at the age of 15 to sing in taverns and brisses (so says Zilberzweig). He wrote words and music for many songs even as a teenager.

He lived in Paris for a while and then moved to America where he played in vaudeville and later in "legitimate theater." His most famous song is perhaps Ikh for aheym (I'm going home) or maybe Der yold iz mikh mekane (The chump is jealous of me). Here he is singing his 1921 composition, also transliterated as Men kon leben, nor men lost nit.


Here's the translation. If you want the transliteration or the original Yiddish oysyes or sheet music email me.

There are gold and diamonds in the world
Diamond jewelry and a lot of money
Beautiful fine clothes and lovely houses
You are just thinking all the time this comes of money
There shouldn't be poor or rich
Everyone should be equal, then the poor man would not be wailing:

You could live, but they don't let you
One has too much and everything goes well for him
You could live, but they don't let you.
The world belongs to God and everyone should be good.


My neighbor's wife is beautiful while my wife is very ugly.
And he has a small mother-in-law who is sugar sweet.
Wherever I go I see loads of pretty women.
I'm committed to an ugly wife and must stay with her.

I ask how long can this go on
When I see everybody else has a pretty wife
I cry out heartily and say to myself:

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

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