Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Friday, April 12, 2019

Pavolye, Reb Volye! A Yiddish vaudeville song

Here's a Yiddish parody of a song which was pretty parodic to begin with: "More Work For the Undertaker" published in 1895, original [contemptible] lyrics written by Burton & Brooks, music by Fred W. Leigh.

The Yiddish version is found in Lider magazin. It was written by Louis Gilrod. (Click the songsheet for a larger view.)

We have an often-told story here, one could read it in the Foverts Bintl Brif every day back then: A husband gives his wife the slip by emigrating to America without her. As often happens in the songs - though probably much less frequently in real life - the wife catches up with him.

Pishe-peyshe is a card game.

Because I'm sightreading these songs as I record them, and because I am such a lousy piano player, I usually record the keyboard part first and the vocal line afterwards, singing the song about six times so I'm sort of learning it as I go. This time I went live. I noticed there is a lot of noise on the vocal track, and also, the files are just huge when I do them this way!

And, I'm revealing to anybody who listens both that (1) I can't play piano and (2) I haven't learned the song yet. So here is my lousy rendition from this morning:

Transliteration and translation from the Yiddish after the jump.

Pavolye, Reb Volye

Nokh Amerika gekumen iz Reb Volye
Vayl fun Shnipishok hot er gemuzt avek
A sreyfele gemakht hot er pavolye
Un optsien hot er gemuzt mit shrek
Yetst iz er in Amerika a mister, geyt in yidishn teater af a pies.
Er trogt a suit tsu order! Vi gefelt aykh aza border?
Dos lidl zingt er tomid foyrst kles:

Reb Volye iz a foyrst kles jewelry faker, er veyst ale triks fun a money maker.
Shpilt pishe peyshe un brent a velt,
Er kvelt: fun Amerika men makht do gelt. Pavolye, Reb Volye!

Gliklekh iz geven Reb Volye, in zayn vaybele fargesn hot er gor.
Nokh Amerike gekumen iz zi pavolye, vayl gevust hot zi, az er iz do af shur.
In yidishn teater iz zi gegangen - tsu a benefit fun epes a farayn.
Dort hot zi im dertapt, im baym kolner opgekhapt,
Un geshlept im glaykh in station hoyz arayn

Reb Volye der foyrst kles jewelry faker vos veys ale triks fun a money maker.
Shpilt pishe peyshe in jail mit di vent
Mit keytlekh af di fis un keytlekh af di hent. Pavolye, Reb Volye!

Got hot shoyn geholfn un Reb Volye geyt shoyn yetst arum gants fray.
Nor tsu shvern hot er gemuzt pavolye: zayn vaybele tsu blaybn erlekh tray.
Zayn vaybele vi es tsaygt, iz nit keyn grine: zi halt af im eyn eygl fun a zayt,
Vayl zi veys az Reb Volye iz a yid vos ken pavolye
In mitn plutsim gor oys zayn di tsayt!

Reb Volye der shvindler, der blofer, der feyker, vos veyst di triks fun a money maker...
Ken shoyn nit mer yetst brenen a velt.
Vifil er fardint, nemt dos vaybl tsu dos gelt. Pavolye, Reb Volye!

Slow Down, Reb Volye!

Reb Volye came to America because he had to get away from Shnipishok.
He'd made a little fire (slowly) and, terrified, he had to slip away.
Now in America he's a "Mister," he goes to a Yiddish theater show.
He wears a bespoke suit! How do you like a boarder like this? He always sings this song first class:

Reb Volye's a first class jewelry faker, he knows all the tricks of a money maker.
He plays pishe peyshe and does just fine, he gloats: you can make money here in America. Careful, Reb Volye!

Reb Volye was happy, he completely forgot about his wife.
She came slowly to America because she knew for sure he was there.
She went to the Yiddish theater, to some kind of Union benefit.
She nabbed him there, grabbed him by the collar and dragged him off to the police station.

Reb Volye, the first class jewelry faker, who knows all the tricks of a money maker,
...plays pishe peyshe by himself in jail with chains on his hands and feet. Careful, Reb Volye!

God helped and now Reb Volye goes around completely free.
He just had to swear carefull to stay honestly faithful to his wife.
His wife is not naive, as this shows: she keeps an eye on him...
... because she knows he's a guy who can suddenly escape and sneak away.

Reb Volye, the swindler, the bluffer, the faker, who knows all the tricks of a money-maker...
... he can't kick up his heels any more. Whatever he earns, his wife takes. Careful, Reb Volye!e

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:


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