Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Saturday, April 13, 2019

Vos Amerike glaykht (What America Likes) - a Yiddish Vaudeville parody from 1899

Another song from Lider magazin (housed at YIVO). Cakewalks and ragtime tunes were very popular at the time and quite a few are used for the Yiddish parodies. This original song was written by Abe Holzmann, who I think was Jewish:

This parody was written by Sadie Levin, about whom I know nothing, sadly.It's exceedingly rare to find published women coupletists in that time period.

There's a classic Americanism in the title: glaykh means equal, but in America it was turned into the verb glaykhn meaning "to like." 

 I love the word kokhlefl which literally is a cooking spoon but figuratively is a big shot, meddler, busybody... somebody who stirs the pot...

My friend Barb Coffman graciously agreed to come over yesterday and make me this great keyboard track. Thanks Barb!

Here is our rendition:

Translation and transliteration of the Yiddish after the jump.

Vos amerike glaykht

Nit vi in der Lite men shtarbt dort far a prite s'iz a land a gite do
Zayn darf men virklikh "smaht" makhstu epes zol zayn glat,
Keyn lehrer, keyn bikher nor a groyser krikher a shnorer iz zikher, do
Ruf zikh doktor men freg dir keyn pasport men gloybt dir afn vort!

Men darf nit zayn keyn griner farshteyn muz men altsding
Est men fleysh tsu dinner men makht a lebn gringer
Nor iberal zikh mishn krigt men "joblekh" laykht
A kokhlefl a politishn vos Amerika glaykht

A Reverend, a rabbe a president a gabe iz a borekhhabe do
Dos iz a gut gesheft un men farlirt keyn kreft!
A moyel a geshayter shoyn an ayngetrayter kumt er glaykh, shnayt er do
Un makht a yeder mishebeyrekh glaykh er lebt zikh gliklekh, raykh!

Far a gite mitig shraybt men on a kritik fun kunst un fun politik do
Men shraybt aykh vos ir vilt un er dan a role shpilt
A yeder bern trayber vert a piesn shrayber es gibt keyn iberklayber do
Er khapt gor a tsen dolardike check un nemt mit freyd avek!

What America Likes

It's not like in Lithuania, where you starve for a penny - it's a good land here.
You need to be truly "smart" and things will go smoothly.
No teacher, no books! Just be a bootlicker. A begger is self-confident here.
Call yourself a doctor, no one will ask for your passport, they'll take you at your word!

You shouldn't be a greenhorn, you need to understand everything.
You eat meat at dinner time, you make a living more easily here.
Just stick your nose in everywhere and you'll get some little job easily.
A bigshot, a politician: that's what America likes.

A reverend, a rabbi, a president, a sexton, all are welcome here.
It's good business and doesn't tax your strength.
A clever circumciser is already in the swing of things, he arrives and immediately snips away.
He says all the blessings and lives a very rich and happy life!

Here, you can write a critique of art and politics in exchange for a good meal.
Write whatever you like, become a player.
Every bear-trainer can write plays, they aren't too picky here.
He grabs a whole ten-dollar check and happily takes it away!

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:


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