Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Ven ikh zol vern president (If I Become President) 1904 Yiddish theater song

I couldn't find much information about this song, which is on the Library of Congress website. It's from the 1904 show "The Lodge President" דער לאָדזשען פּרעזידענט by that shund mayster Professor Horowitz, about whom I've written before.

Arnold Perlmutter and Herman Wohl wrote the song, which as usual is full of Yinglish. Lorin Sklamberg solved the oddest mystery, Fan Pleve ot dem Soine Yssrul, by pointing me to Wikipedia:

Vyacheslav Konstantinovich von Plehve 1846-1904 was the director of Imperial Russia's police and later Minister of the Interior. ... After he did nothing to prevent a bloody wave of anti-Jewish violence in 1903, the known double agent Yevno Azef decided not to inform on the SR plans to kill Plehve. He survived one attack in 1903 and two in 1904 before the Socialist-Revolutionary Combat Group succeeded. On 28 July 1904, a bomb was thrown into Plehve's horse-drawn carriage by Yegor Sazonov, on his weekly audience with the Tsar at Izmailovsky Prospekt in Saint Petersburg, killing him at 58.

So, note that von Plehve died the very year this song mentioned him!

I used the original transliteration from the sheet music in the video. You can see if you agree about the guesses I made. Here it is, recorded this morning. Something strange happened to the keyboard track.



Lyrics and translation after the jump.



Ikh bin a boy mit fil talent
vi mayn tatenyu er zol zikh mien.
Ven ikh zol vern President
volt ikh zeyer fil ufgetin.
In fil gezetse vi mir shaynt
geendert mit mayn fuler kraft
Kapital un arbet volt ikh fareynt
Un Sunday law gor opgeshaft.
Trinken zol a yeder fray.
Un poker shpiln say vi say.

Es volt gevezn a mekhaye men volt gelebt un gelakht
In a Konstitushen gor a naye volt ikh mir aleyn gemakht.
A yeder volt geven tsufridn Di yenkis un oykh di yidn
Oysfirn ales volt ikh gekent ven ikh zol vern President

Avekgemuft volt ikh Sing-Sing
In der 5th Ave ibergefirt.
Un Allen Street volt ikh zeyer gring
Vi a mol sheyn oysgetsirt
Di Politician dort bazetst
Tsu dem volt ikh nor geshtrebt
Un ikh volt zey ale yo, biz tsu letst
A Union Lebel ufgeklebt
Un di ale bloye rek
Volt ikh gegebn di sek.

Milkhome volt ikh bald derklert
Zikh tsu shlogn nor mit dem katsap
Un im bagrobn tif in der erd
Volt ikh mitn erstn klap
Mit Japan mir eyn hand gemakht
Un im onlernen git dos mol
Un geharget volt ikh bald nokh der shlakht
Von Plehve ot dem soyne yisroel
Gefreyt volt ikh mikh dan oykh zeyer
Mit der mapole fun dem rusishen ber

I'm a boy with lots of talent, as my father raised me.
If I became President I'd get a lot done.
And I'd change lots of laws, you understand,
with my full strength I'd unite capital and labor, abolish the Blue Laws.
Everybody could drink freely and play poker as they pleased.

It would be a wonder, people would live well and laugh.
I myself would create a new Constitution!
Everybody would be happy, the Yankees and the Jews as well.
I'd be able to do everything if I became President.

I'd move Sing-Sing to Fifth avenue and
I'd pretty up Allen Street the way it used to be.
The politician installed there, that's what I'd work for.
And to them all, every last one, I'd affix the Union Label.
And all the policemen in their blue coats would get the sack.

I'd quickly declare war, to go fight the lousy Russian.
I'd bury him deep in the earth with the first blow.
With Japan, I'd teach him well this time,
And right after the battle I'd kill von Plehve, the enemy of Israel.
Then I'd be very happy with the downfall of the Russian bear.


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

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