Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Thursday, August 15, 2019

A bisele fun oybn (Yiddish parody of A Little Bit Off The Top) 1898 Yiddish parody of an American vaudeville hit

Here's our recording of a once-famous (perhaps) Tin Pan Alley Song written by Murray and Leigh, from our cd Yiddish Ragtime. Randy Kloko is singing, thanks Randy!

Louis Koppelman wrote this Yiddish parody of an American comic song of the same name. The lyrics of the original were silly (as befits "The Comic Rage") and so were Koppelman's verses.

In the second verse our protagonist complains that he went to the theater and paid for an expensive seat ($1.00) which is why, when a lady with a big hat sat in front of him, he couldn't see anything. If he'd been in the cheap seats in the gallery with the hoi-polloi, this hat would not have been a problem.

Also interesting: "Sappho" was playing. Was in in English or Yiddish? Was it famous at the time? I haven't bothered to find out.

By the way, big hats those days were really big.

Yiddish lyrics and translation after the jump.

A bisele fun oybn

Hert vos ikh vil dertseyln aykh, vos mit mir hot pasirt a zakh.
Ikh hob tsu diner geladn a fraynd tsu mir.
Dos ershte hot men derlangt tsum tish:
Frish gebrotene shtiker fish.
Gefresen hot es mayn fraynd gor on a shir
Un ales vos er hot farlangt hot men im bald derlangt,
Geshlungen hot mayn frayntl zeyer a sakh.
Dokh ven men hot derlangt tsum tish
A strawberry cake gebakn frish
Hot er gants breyt geshrien tsum veyter glaykh:

"A bisl fun oybn nem arop far mir far mir
A bisl fun oybn nem arop far mir far mir
Du veyst gor nit vi ikh hob lib di strawberries, mir nor gib!
Ales vos ikh vil iz a bisl fun oybn far mir."

In a teater bin ikh geveyn,
Vu Sappho hot zikh geshpilt gants sheyn,
Ikh bin gezesn af a dollar seat.
Ikh bin gezesn shtark interesirt, hot der "osher" bald tsugefirt
A ledi mit fil federn in ir het.
A yeder feder iz geven a shrek gor on tsu zen,
Ikh hob shoyn nit gekent mer zen keyn zakh.
Ikh hob batsolt mayn shvere gelt
Un zi hot mir mit ir het farshtelt
Dan hob ikh mikh gevendt tsu ir glaykh:

"Ot dos fun oybn nem arop far mir far mir
Ot dos fun oybn nem arop far mir far mir
Zen di shpilers ken ikh gor nit tsulib ayere het
Ales nemt arop a bisl fun oybn far mir."

A Little Bit Off The Top

Hear what I tell you, something that happened to me! I invited a
friend to come to dinner, my treat. First a fresh broiled piece of
fish was brought to the table, my friend gobbled it up endlessly. And
everything he asked for he got. My little friend swallowed quite a
lot. Then when a freshly baked strawberry cake was brought to the
table he grandly shouted to the waiter right away:

"Take a little bit off the top for me. You don't know how much I
love strawberries, give them to me! All I want is a little bit off
the top."

I went to the theater where they were doing an excellent production
of Sappho. I sat in a dollar seat. I was rapt. So then the usher soon
brought a lady with a lot of feathers in her hat. Each feather was
simply a horror, I couldn't see anything any more. I paid my hard-
earned money, and she got in the way with her hat! Then I turned to
her straight away:

"Take that off the top for me. I can't see the actors at all thanks
to your hat, so take a little off the top for me."

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:

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