Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Vu nemt men amolike yor (parody of She May Have Seen Better Days) - Yiddish vaudeville song from 1894

Here's another song from the Lider magazin housed at YIVO in New York. Each issue is half lyrics from a Yiddish operetta that was popular at the time, and half other Yiddish songs, including parodies of American pop music of the time.

The melody specified by the parodist here, David Meyerowitz, is "She May Have Seen Better Days," published in 1894. James Thornton was the composer and lyricist. You can hear his song on youtube as sung by George Gaskin back in the day, and a generation later by Beatrice Kay, who made a career singing songs of the "Gay 90s."

This blog includes many David Meyerowitz songs. He was born in 1867 in Latvia to poor parents. His father left for America and David supported the family working in a match factory and singing on the side. When he was 13 he joined his father in America and they worked in the rag trade. He continued singing and writing songs and gradually found his place in the world of Yiddish theater, though, it's said, he couldn't read or write (but he taught himself English and Yiddish). The Meyerowitz lyrics we find in Lider magazin are from his early period, they are often rather awkward.

Jim Baird plays bass and Ken Bloom plays guitar on this living room recording we made recently.

Translation and transliteration after the jump.

Vu nemt men amolike yor?

In a yedn land iz gut bakant mener vos klingen vayt
In hertsn on tsol in vider kol Hert zikh vi es mont a tsayt
Fun ale geshtaltn fun yunge biz alte fargesn ken men dos nit
Dos zingen glaykh say orem say raykh vayl dos iz a hertsns lid

Vu nemt men amolike yor Zingt zikh in hertsn a lid
Vu nemt men amolike yor un trern bagleytn dos mit
Di strunes in hertsn dervekt Un mit trern badekt
Zingt zikh a lid un men vert keyn mol mid vu nemt men amolike yor

Eyn fraylin vil zikh farheyratn gikh
Gliklekh volt zi zayn azoy
Gekhapt nit geklert vos iz ir bashert
In gikhn gemakht a parti (before long)
A yor loyft geshvind ven zi hot nor a kind
Di zelbike iz zi shoyn nit
Ven zi shlefert zi ayn so darft ir zi zen
Zing zi di zelbike lid

Vu nemt men amolike yor (ven ikh bin a meydl geven)?
Vu nemt men amolike yor (ven ikh hob dir mayn kind nit gezen)?
Shvesterlekh es iz nit gut, heyratn zolt ir nit
Di herts unbarit vayl der yungend farflit.
Vu nemt men amolike yor?

Eyn fraylin gants sheyn zi iz fil mit kheyn
Khasanim hot zi on a shir
Nor zi halt zikh groys, klaybt zi zikh nit oys
Vayl zi vil nokh shener fun ir
Ober ven zi vert alt baym zikh der geshtalt
Dan iz shoyn eyn untershid
Tsu zayn sheyn vi befor muz men zikh farbn di hor
Un farbn zikh zingt zi di lid

Vu nemt men amolike yor? shrayt zi: Gevald! Ikh shtarb!
Vu nemt men amolike yor, ven ikh hob nit gebroykht di farb?
Khasanim gehat sheyn un gut un yetst vil mikh keyner nit
Ikh hob geshaynt iberal punkt vi a "doll"!
Vu nemt men amolike yor?

Dort durkh a sibe farfirt zikh a libe
Un gliklekh zenen di por
Az men heyrat gevis veys yeder vi es iz
Di libe iz nit heys vi befor
Es dermont shoyn di rent un es iz nito a sent.
Fun der arbet vert men oykh mid.
Ven es iz nito af broyt, shlogt men zikh af toyt.
Un shlogn zikh, zingt zi di lid:

Vu nemt men amolike yor (ven mir hobn fun klep nit gevust)?
Vu nemt men amolike yor (ven men hot zikh gehaldzt un gekust)?
Dan benkt zikh yedn aleyn di oygn iz ful mit geveyn (prose: zayt visn)
Ven der yugnt loyft avek benkt zikh a shrek
Vu nemt men amolike yor

How does one recapture the days of yore?

A young lady wants to get married quickly, she'll behappy that way.
She grabbed at it, not thinking what her destiny will be.
Before long a match is made.
A year flies by quickly, she has a child,
She's not the girl she was.
When she puts the baby to sleep, you should see her.
She sings the same song?

How can I recapture the days of yore (when I was a maiden)?
How can I recapture the days of yore (when I hadn't see you yet, my child)?
Sisters, it isn't good - you shouldn't marry.
The heart is unquiet because youth has flown away.
How does one recapture the days of yore?

A young lady is so lovely, so full of charm,
She has zillions of suitors.
But she's haughty, she doesn't choose
Because she wants one that's more lovely than she is.
But when she's old, her figure is quite changed.
To be as pretty as before, she must color her hair.
And coloring it, she sings this song:

How does one recapture the days of yore? She shouts: Gevald! I'm dying!
How does one recapture the days of yore, when I didn't need hair dye?
I had handsome, good suitors, and now nobody wants me.
I shone everywhere, just like a doll!
How does one recapture the days of yore?

Sort of by accident a love affair played out, and the couple was happy.
Certainly everybody knows that when one marries, the love is not as ardent as before.
One has to think about the rent, and there's not a penny,
And also, work makes you tired.
When there's no money for bread people beat each other to death
And while hitting, she sings this song:

How does one recapture the days of yore (when I didn't know about these blows)?
How does one recapture the days of yore (when we hugged and kissed)?
Then everyone yearns, the eyes are full of tears.
When youth flies away, one yearns terribly.
How does one recapture the days of yore?

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:


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