Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Nit ales iz gold vos shaynt (All That Glitters Is Not Gold) by Isaac Reingold, 1894 Yiddish vaudeville song.


Today's song is Nit ales iz gold vos shaynt, which is most obviously translated as "All that glitters is not gold," as Shakespeare said. But there's word play in the Yiddish title - the verb shaynen does means to shine, but it also means to seem or to appear to be. So literally this would be "Not everything is gold that shines" AND "Not everything is gold that appears to be gold."

The parody was written by Isaac Reingold, who's authored many of the lyrics featured here. You'll find him lauded online as the "Bard of the West" - he lived in Chicago when he came over from Europe. He worked in sweatshops, wrote songs, drank too much, and died in 1903 at the age of 30. I think the world broke his heart.

He set his bitter text to the American popular song "Johnny, My Old Friend John," published in 1894. The composer and lyricist was William Courtright, and in his six verses he reminds his friend of times gone by. Eventually we realize that the two friends went off to war but while the narrator made it back, Johnny now is lying somewhere under the snow.

The song is in an issue of Lider magazin, a publication from the turn of the century which is giving me a lot of fun. Here's my recording. I am trying to figure out how to do live recordings with the equipment I have. When I record it all at once - playing the electric keyboard and singing simultaneously into the camera, there is a lot of hissing. Its microphone isn't very good, or maybe it's just that what comes out of the speaker of the electric piano isn't very good. So my choices appear to be, either pre-record the piano part and then video the singing, or video and record while playing the keyboard and do the singing afterwards. That's what I did this time.




Translation and transliteration after the jump.



Nit ales iz gold vos shaynt

Dos shprikhvort hob ikh shoyn fil mol gehert: Nit ales iz gold vos shaynt
Un dos hobn mentshn zeyer klug derklert vayl nit ales iz gold vos shaynt
Ikh ze dort a gevir er shaynt mir tsu zayn i gliklekh un erlekh i raykh un fayn
Der grester betuekh in shtot un plutsling derklert er bankrot

Nit ales iz gold vos shaynt Dos vorn ikh yedn fraynd
Dem emesn oysher derkent men nit haynt vayl nit ales iz gold vos shaynt.

Ir hert dort a frumer yid redt fun Got Nit ales iz gold vos shaynt
Er hit op di toyre di tsen gebot vayl nit ales iz gold vos shaynt
Zayn bruder, zayn fraynd geroybt er biz gor, Frum iz er yo, af im aza yor
A kolboynik, nemt groyse protsent Far zayn yidishkayt gib ikh keyn sent

Nit ales iz gold vos shaynt Dos vorn ikh yedn fraynd
Dem emesn tsadik derkent men nit haynt vayl nit ales iz gold vos shaynt.

Dort shaynt tsu zayn eyner gebildet fayn. Nit ales iz gold vos shaynt
In visnshaft shaynt er nit fremd tsu zayn vayl nit ales iz gold vos shaynt
Zayn kentnik gloybt mir hot gor keyn verth er ploydert nor dos vos er hot gehert es shaynt,
im iz ales bakant nor er veyst azoy fil vi di vant

Nit ales iz gold vos shaynt Dos vorn ikh yedn fraynd
Dem emesn kener derkent men nit haynt vayl nit ales iz gold vos shaynt.

All that glitters is not gold

I've often heard the expression: all that glitters is not gold.
And very smart people say it: all that glitters is not gold.
I see here a rich man, he seems to be happy, honest, rich, fine,
The most trustworthy person in the city - and suddenly he declares bankruptcy!

Not all that glitters is gold - I warn every friend about this
People don't recognize true treasure these days - because all that glitters is not gold.

Over there you hear a pious Jew talking about God - all that glitters is not gold.
He abides by the Torah, the Ten Commandments - all that glitters is not gold.
He robs his brother, his friend, of everything. Oh, yes, he's pious, bless him,
A rascal, a usurer! I wouldn't give a penny for his brand of Judaism.

Not all that glitters is gold - I warn every friend about this
People don't recognize true holiness these days - because all that glitters is not gold

Over there is somebody who is apparently educated - all that glitters is not gold.
He seems no stranger to science - all that glitters is not gold.
His knowledge, believe me, is worthless. He just babbles about what he's heard to be true.
He's familiar with everything, but he knows as much as the wall does.

Not all that glitters is gold - I warn every friend about this
People don't recognize a true expert these days - because all that glitters is not gold.


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

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