Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Vi gefelt aykh aza boarder? - a Yiddish minstrel show song.

This is one of my very favorite songs from the Lider magazin collection - and it's also my very favorite song about that iconic figure, the boarder: a single man who is renting a room in somebody's apartment and hanging out with the wife while the husband is at work. It seems like more than half the parlor songs from this time period are obsessing about boarders.


This says the song is from Zigmund Mogulesko's famous comedy "Di yidishe emigrantn, oder, der bigamist."


The composer of this ditty is Nahum Meïr Schaikewitz ("Shomer") who rates an entry at Jewish Encyclopedia.com and Wikipedia but neither article references his work as a song parodist.

The original song, "How'd You Like To Be The Ice Man," published in 1899 by Helf and Moran, fascinates me. The narrator is convinced that icemen are as wealthy as Vanderbilt and are treated to perks like free groceries, free booze (a "Tin Roof Cocktail") and dinner on the house.

Bob Vasile, who's played British Isles music with me since the 1980s, kindly played this tango on the guitar. Here we are from this week's living room recording:


Transliteration and translation from the Yiddish after the jump. I didn't sing the third verse.



Vi gefelt aykh aza border?

A por folk ven zey viln shporzam zayn
Nemen zey a border in shtub arayn.
Di shenste room klaybt men far im oys
Vayl fun im krigt men dem rent bald aroys.
Ver shmuest ven der border iz sheyn un ying -
Bay der missus poyelt er bald altsding.
Dem man lozt zi iber a bisl a lek,
Un dem gantsn tsimes gibt zi dem border avek.

Vi gefelt aykh aza border?
Vilt ir oykh zayn aza border?
Im mekane iz groys un kleyn -
vos efsher neyn?

S'iz slek un der border arbet nit
Khotsh er iz shtoft un raykh, es iz im git
Vayl di missus farlangt bay im nit keyn rent
Un shtipt im nokh unter ire a por sent.
Far nakht ven der man kumt on fun'm shop
Git zi im dos kind tsum vign a hop
Zi geyt zikh avek un aylt zikh on' shir
Vayl dort ergets vart shoyn der border af ir.

Der man hot bamerkt shoyn dem shur-bor, er kukt shoyn mit oygn af dem por
In droysn gevatsht hot zey shoyn der man un kumt plutsim on glaykh in shtub araan
Un zet ven er efent uf di tir, vi der border kusht zikh punkt mit ir
Er shpalt im dem kop, rayst ir oys di tsep, un varft arop dem boarder fun ale trep.

Shoyn gegnt iz di missus fun ir man,
Getst zogt zi tsum border: "Bin ikh dayn!"
Fun der psure vert azh dem border shlekht
Af dem umglik hot er zikh gor nit gerekht.
Zi fregt im "Hostu nor gelt bay dir?
Vayl ikh vel geyn dingen rums my dear."
Vi er geyt shoyn mit ir im helft nit atsind
Kumt on zayn vayb fun yurop nokh mit a kind.

How do you like this kind of boarder?

When a couple wants to be frugal they take a boarder into the house.
They choose the loveliest room for him because he pays the rent promptly.
Especially when the boarder is handsome and young
he swiftly has his way in everything with the landlady
She leaves a few crumbs for her husband
and she gives the whole ... tsimes ... to the boarder.

How do you like a boarder like this?
Would you also like to be such a boarder?
Everyone, big and small, envies him - and why not?

It's the slack season and the boarder isn't working.
Even so, he's stuffed and rich and doing well,
Because the landlady doesn't demand the rent from him
and even gives him a few of her own pennies.
When her husband comes home from the shop at night
She gives him the child to rock in the cradle.
She hurries to leave the house
Because the boarder is already waiting for her somewhere...

The husband noticed their monkey business, he keeps his eyes on the pair
Outside he watched them and then suddenly came right into the house
And look, when he opens the door, there's the boarder kissing her
The husband splits the guy's head, yanks his wife's braid,
and throws the boarder down the stairs.

So the landlady divorces her husband
And now she tells the boarder "I'm yours."
He's horrified by this announcement,
by this misfortune he wasn't expecting at all!
She asks him: "Do you have some money on you?
Because I'm off to rent us rooms, my dear."
He goes with her but it's no help to him:
Here comes his wife from Europe, and with a child yet.


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

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