Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Friday, March 8, 2019

Humbug, shvindl, blof: set to "There'll be a Hot Time in the Old Time Tonight," 1897

From Lider magazin, this parody by Isaac Reingold follows the usual custom of having each verse be about some different aspect of the title.

First, the general sleaziness of mankind...

... second, the sleaziness of people appearing to be sincerely in love...

... lastly, the sinking of the USS Maine, an American naval ship blown up in Havana Harbor during the Cuban revolt against Spain, and also Krupp armors, cutting edge cladding for warships.

I never even heard of this war. It doesn't look like the United States came off looking very good, but this song has the jaunty confident jingoism of its era.

Ken Bloom (guitar) and Jim Baird (bass) came over and recorded five accompaniment tracks for me yesterday so that was cool. Here is our rendition of this odd amalgam:

Yiddish transliteration and translation after the jump.

Kum aher guter bruder un batrakht gut di velt
Oy, bamerkt vi ales iz fardreyt un ales's farshtelt
Vu der sheker hot keyn onheyb nit der shvindl keyn sof
Un af ales vos men git a blik iz humbug shvindl blof

Ven eyner shvert bay zikh bay vayb un kind
Bay alts vos im iz lib zogar bay zayn gezint
Do hot zayn vort a makht vi plevis afn vind
Den alts iz humbug shvindl un blof.

Tsi bistu a maven af di por vos dort shpatsirt?
Ze vi heys un tray er vert mit ir, ir herts vert gerirt
Az mit ir volt er oykh makhn in gehenem a shpatsir,
Un far ir volt er gekrokhn tif in dr'erd af ale fir.

Ven er zogt "Bist mayn! Nor tsu dir mayn harts gehert!"
Dan meynt er prost, "Ikh hob dikh tif in dr'erd."
Un zayn libe tsu ir iz zikher gor nit verth,
Den alts iz humbug shvindl un blof.

In Havana mir khapn dos vos shreklekhs iz geshen:
Di shpanier hobn eksplodirt di groyse krig shif "Maine."
Es shraybn di tsaytungen, men redt shtark fun dem,
Az in krig vet itst aroys der liber alter Uncle Sem.

Ikh shtel mir for vi Shpanyen geyt in krig:
Di mame trogt di fon un der kenig ligt in vig!
Do kumt on Krupp's kanon un blozt avek di flig,
Do helft keyn humbug keyn shvindl keyn blof.

Martsht Uncle Sam, di krig iz shoyn farbay,
Mit chew tobacco in moyl un a fule hand mit pie,
Un er tantst a jig un fayft nokh tsu derbay
Dos lid fun humbug shvindl un blof.

Come here, good brother, and think about the world,
Notice how everything is twisted, everything's disguised,
Where the lie has no beginning and the swindle no end
And everything you look at is humbug, swindle, and bluff.

When somebody swears by himself, his wife and child,
By everything dear to him, even his health,
His word is no stronger than chaff in the wind.
Everything is humbug, swindle, and bluff.

Do you know about that couple walking there?
See how ardent and faithful he becomes with her, her heart is moved.
He'd walk with her even in Gehenna,
And he'd crawl on all fours deep in the ground for her.

When he says "You're mine! My heart belongs only to you!"
Then he simply means, "To hell with you."
And his love is surely worth nothing to her.
Everything is humbug, swindle, and bluff.

We understand the terrible events taking place in Havana:
The Spanish exploded the big Battleship Maine.
The newspapers write about it, people talk about it strongly,
That now dear old Uncle Sam will go to war.

I imagine how Spain goes to war:
The mother holds the flag and the king lies in the cradle.
Then, here comes Krupp's cannon and blows away the fly,
And no humbug, swindle or bluff will help.

Uncle Sam marches, the battle's already over.
With chewing tobacco in his mouth and a hand full of pie,
He dances a jig and whistles, too,
This song of humbug, swindle, and bluff.

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:


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