Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Saturday, July 27, 2019

Tsurik, tsurik, tsurik in shnayder shop (Back, Back, Back to Baltimore) Yiddish ragtime from 1904

Isidore Lillian (left) (also spelled Isidor Lillien or any combination) was born in 1882 in Galicia. He came to New York in 1892 and was 22 when he wrote this parody for the Katsenelenbogen music publishing company.

I've been chewing away on the parodies printed in the Lider magazin found at YIVO (but sent to me by the superlative Vivi Lachs in London). It seems to me that Yiddish vaudeville ragtime is a genre ready for revival!

A problem is that the underlying songs often had racist lyrics; nobody in their right mind would sing them any more. I'm hoping it's ok to bring the melodies back without the baggage. In this case, unusually, the Yiddish lyric has the same theme as the original: that it's not a good career choice to go into show business. Back, Back Back To Baltimore, melody by Egbert Van Alstyne and original lyrics by Harry H. Williams, was published in 1904.

It was my great fortune to have pianist Glenn Mehrbach play the accompaniment and Randy Kloko sang on the chorus. Here's the track from our cd Yiddish Ragtime:

Transliteration and translation from the Yiddish after the jump.

Tsurik, tsurik, tsurik in shnayder shop

Hert zikh nor ayn meynt nit s'iz fayn
Teater tsu shpiln, an ektor tsu zayn
Biter iz mir ikh bin dokh frier
Gevezn a shnayder, geneyt on a shir
Farglust zikh mir nor zayn an aktyor
Shpiln teater in alde shvarts yor
Ikh bin gekrenkt kh'hob falsh gedenkt
Tsurik geyn in shop hot zikh mir farbenkt.

Ikh gey tsurik tsurik tsurik in shnayder shop
Di ektors hobn mir genug fardreyt dem kop
Tsu zayn an ektor iz, vi ikh denk, zeyer a shvere shlekhte krenk.
Nor oysgeheylt hob ikh zikh hori up!
Geshpilt hob ikh, ikh, ikh far a soldat
Nor glat tsu esn hob ikh nit gehat
Vos toyg mir zayn an aktyor un shlofn af der hoyler floor
Ikh gey shoyn tsurik in shnayder shop

Shtel aykh nor for, zayn an aktyor,
Tsu fus geyn fun Boston azh biz Baltimore
Shuldik iz ver, der menedzher,
Er iz antlofn, men zet im nit mer
Farlozt hot er undz mit undzer kunts
Hungerik, shleferdik in der provints
Vos vart ikh nokh, khapt im di brokh
Ikh gey tsu shnayderay nekste vokh!

Ikh gey tsurik tsurik tsurik in shnayder shop
Di ektors hobn mir genut fardreyt dem kop
Di vantses hot men mir opgegolt
Peyde hot men nit getsolt
A bom bin ikh gevorn hori op!
Di missus hot hot hot undz hit getrost
Afile shlofn hot zi nit gelozt
Vos toyg mir trogn sheyne kostyums
Es nemt keyn shlof in di dresing rums
Ikh gey shoyn tsurik in shnayder shop

Ikh gedenk nokh yenem mitvokh
Mayn ershter oyftrit a veytog, a brokh
M'hot mikh grimirt un mikh farshmirt
Bald af der steydzh hob ikh aroys marshirt
Kh'makh mit di hent, tsayg mayn talent,
Nor ver ikh bin dos hot men bald derkent
Un vi ikh shtey un zing far zey
Her ikh fun der galeri aza geshrey:

Se, gey shoyn tsurik tsurik tsurik in shnayder shop
Arop fun steydzh du portsiye hori op
Poteytes zaynen gefaln vi shney
Fun der galeri flit an ey
A foyler epl treft mikh glaykh in kop
Oy mentshn zogt zogt zogt vos ir vintsht
S'iz nokh a glik vos men hot mikh nit gelintsht
Vi ikh hob derhert nor zeyer geshrey
Hob ikh glaykh geentfert zey:
Ikh gey shoyn tsurik in shnayder shop

Back, back, back to the tailor shop

Listen up! Don't assume it's so great to perform in the theater, to be an actor.
Woe is me! I used to be a tailor, I was always sewing.
I got the urge to be an actor full-time, to perform in the theater, damn it.
I was unhinged, I miscalculated. I long to go back to the sweatshop.

I'm going back to the tailor shop. The actors have driven me crazy long enough.
I think being an actor is a difficult, horrible disease.
But I'm recuperating quickly!
I played a soldier on stage, but I simply had nothing to eat.
What good is it to me to be an actor and sleep on the bare floor?
I'm going right back to the tailor shop.

Imagine it: being an actor. Traveling on foot from Boston to Baltimore!
It was the manager's fault: he ran away, we don't see him any more.
He abandoned us, with our craft, hungry and sleepy out in the boonies.
What am I waiting for? To hell with him!
I'm going back to tailoring next week!

I'm going back to the tailor shop, the actors have driven me crazy long enough.
My moustache got shaved up, we got nothing on payday,
I became a bum very quickly!
The landlady didn't trust us, she wouldn't even let us sleep.
What good is it to wear lovely costumes? You can't sleep in the dressing rooms.
I'm going back to the tailor shop.

I still remember that Wednesday, my first appearance on stage, what a disaster.
They put makeup on me, smeared on the grease paint.
I soon marched out onto the stage.
I wave my hands around, I show my talent,
but people soon see who I really am.
And as I stand and sing for them, I hear this outcry from the gallery:

"Say, go back to the tailor shop! Get off the stage right away, squirt!"
Potatoes were falling like snow, an egg flew out of the gallery.
A rotten apple hit me right in the head.
Oy, people, say what you like, it's my great fortune I wasn't lynched.
Right when I heard their shouts, I answered straight off:
"I'm going back to the tailor shop."

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