Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Sunday, June 2, 2019

Get Your Money's Worth: a Yiddish parody by Louis Kopelman from 1897

This song is so long, it might as well be an opera. OK that's an exaggeration, but these three verses clock in at almost 6 minutes, and there was a fourth I didn't sing.

The original song was written by Irving Jones, an African-American composer, and it was a big hit for him. I couldn't find a recording online.

The song was written for Bessie Thomashefsky and we see how these Yiddish ragtime songs became the rage:
I know you don't want to hear old songs any more.
And I, myself, find it hard to sing old songs.
And when I see you all coming here (no Evil Eye),
I know you only want to pay to hear novelties.

I was at YIVO this past week and found a wonderful 1985 article by Fred Somkin called "Zion's Harp by the East River." It's all about exactly these parodic songs from Lider magazin. I wish I could call Fred and say "I LOVE YOUR ARTICLE," but he passed away in 2009.

So after the first verse, about how novel and wonderful these ragtime songs are, there is a second verse about a mother and her daughters (I skipped it) and then a verse about the Spanish American War and we finish up with the Dreyfus affair. Here's my recording from this week. Glenn Mehrbach prepared the keyboard track and then I tried to sing along afterwards as I always do, but the words are really packed into it and presented quite a challenge.

So you can look them up, some of the parshoynen in this song are:

Admiral Winfield Scott Schley
Admirals William Sampson
Admiral George Dewey
Hubert-Joseph Henry
Alfred Dreyfus
Charles Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy
Émile Zola
Georges Picquart

Transliteration and translation from the Yiddish after the jump.

Get your money's worth

Get your money's worth, a lidl iz dokh yetst aroys
Get your money's worth, dos lidl zingt fun kleyn biz groys
Get your money's worth dos lidl nemt bay yedn oys
Ikh vil es oykh prubirn zingen zen vi aykh gefelt
Alte lider veys ikh vilt ir shoyn nit hern mer
un mir aleyn tsu zingen alte lider iz oykh shver
un ven ikh ze aykh on en ore ale kumen aher
Veys ikh az ir vilt nor hern nayes far ayer gelt

Darum vil ikh yetst zingen nayes biz tsu letst
un ir aleyn vet oykh muzn farshteyn
az di melody un di verter dertsi
zaynen virklekh zeyer gut zeyer gut un sheyn

Get your money's worth
Ikh vel zingen far aykh yidn
Ir zolt nor ale zayn tsufridn
Get your money's worth
Ikh vil ir zolt imer kumen tsu geyn
Get your money's worth
Ikh vel aykh nit farfirn, ir vet aykh amuzirn
Ikh vel zingen far aykh lidelekh a sakh
And you'll get your money's worth

A yeder fun aykh veyst az Shpanyen (ot dos shvakhe flig)
Hot gevagt tsu firn mit Amerike a krig
Mir hobn zey geshlogn, geshrien hobn zey "Genug"
Farlorn hobn zey di shlakht, fil mentshn, un gever.
Dewey bay Manila hot gekempft dort vi a riz
Schley un Sampson bay Santiago hot zey gefangen, biz
Zey hobn zikh ale untergegebn, yetst fort men keyn Pariz
Dortn veln di Shpanyer veynen:
"Mir kenen zikh nit shlogn mer!"
Yetst nor batrakht - foriber iz shoyn di shlakht
Mir hobn gezigt - un Shpanyen tif in d'rerd ligt
Un in Pariz - veln zey gevis
Betn un veynen ligend af di knies (oy)
"Get your money's worth!
Nemt di Filipinen un ales vos iz d'rinen
Get your money's worth,
abi nor lozt undz shoyn tsu ru!"
"Get your money's worth!
Mir hobn keyn harmatn, keyn land un soldatn.
Ir hot undzer flote gemakht mit der blote,
So get your money's worth!"

A yeder eyner veyst as Dreyfus iz a fayner man
Farfolgt im hobn Esterhazy un Henry der tiran
Gelitn hot er zeyer biter erger ken nit zayn
Afn Tayfls Indzl im farshikt far file toyzend mayl
Zola un Picquart, ot di brave orntlekhe layt,
Hobn geshrien un gekert di velt a lange tsayt,
Biz nokh lange shvere laydn iz men shoyn barayt
Dem martirer yetst tsu gebn gor a naye trial.
Dan vet Frankraykh im betn um fartsayung glaykh
Un ir vet zen, ven er vet fray nor aroys geyn,
Vet yeder faynd - vern zayn fraynd -
Un yeder vet im frayndlekh raykhn di hand!

Get your money's worth,
Nokh di tsores shvere veln mir dir gebn groyse ehre
Get your money's worth,
Du bist der faynster man in land
Get your money's worth
Du host genug gelitn fun di antisemitn
Yetst veln mir dir tsaygn vi hoykh du vest shtaygn
And you'll get your money's worth!

"Get Your Money's Worth" is a song that's going around.
"Get Your Money's Worth," everybody's singing it, big and small.
"Get Your Money's Worth," it's a big hit with everyone.
I want to try singing it too, see if you like it.
I know you don't want to hear old songs any more.
And I, myself, find it hard to sing old songs.
And when I see you all coming here (no Evil Eye),
I know you only want to pay to hear hear novelties.

Therefore I want to sing only new stuff now,
And you yourselves must also understand
That the melody and the words
Are really good, very good and pretty.

Get your money's worth!
I'll sing for you, Jews,
You'll enjoy it. Get your money's worth!
I want you always to come back.
Get your money's worth
I won't mislead you, you'll be amused.
I'll sing a lot of songs for you
And you'll get your money's worth.

You all know that Spain (that weak flea)
Dared to start a war with America.
We beat them, they shouted "Enough!"
They lost the war, a lot of men, and weaponry.
Dewey fought like a giant at Manila.
Schley and Sampson took prisoners at Santiago
until they all went under. Now they're going to Paris.
There, the Spaniards will sob: "We can't take any more!"

Now, just think - the war is over already.
We won, and Spain is buried deep in the ground
And in Paris they will certainly
Beg and cry, on their knees:

"Get your money's worth!
Take the Phillippines and everything within them.
Get your money's worth,
As long as you leave us in peace."
"Get your money's worth!
We have no rifles, no land, no soldiers,
You've blown our flotilla into the mud,
So get your money's worth!"

Everyone knows Dreyfus is a fine man.
Esterhazy and Henry the tyrant persecuted him.
He suffered bitterly, it couldn't have been worse.
They sent him to Devil's Island 1000s of miles away.
Zola and Picquart, those brave honest people,
Shouted and turned the world upside down for a long time.
Until after long hard suffering the time was right
To give the martyr, now, a whole new trial.

So then France will beg his forgivenness
And you'll see, when he goes free,
Every enemy will become his friend
And everyone will extend a hand to him in friendship.

Get your money's worth! After the severe hardships
You'll be given great respect.
Get your money's worth!
You're the finest man in the land.
Get your money's worth!
You've suffered enough from antisemitism
Now we'll show you how high you can rise
And you'll get your money's worth.

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:


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