Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Rayst arop di shleser! (Tear down the castles) Yiddish parody of 1904 "Give My Regards to Broadway"

This one was such a pleasure. Louis Gilrod, one of the two most prolific parodists featured in Lider magazin, wrote a classic workers' anthem, stirring, furious, bitter, to the cheerful tune of a frivolous WASPy classic.

Here's our recording from the cd Yiddish Ragtime, with Randy Kloko on vocals with me and Glenn Mehrbach on keyboard:

A lot of people have told me they're surprised that "Give My Regards To Broadway" was published in 1904 - they thought it was a song from a generation or two later. Also, people only recognize the chorus, the verse has not survived in popular memory.

In Yiddish shleser usually just means locks, but in German it also means castles, and Gilrod used both meanings very cleverly in this lyric, also the idea of people being locked up and locked out.

The song rings true in our current age when robber barons are flourishing and workers are oppressed. One sad difference between now and 115 years ago is that the service industry is almost all that's left in America: after decades of decline our country's industry, home industries, the trades, the labor unions, all have fallen on hard times. Who is standing up for workers now?

Transliteration and translation from the Yiddish after the jump.

Rayst arop di shleser

Arbeter fun ale lender, fareynikt aykh ale baynand!
Shoyn tsayt tsu dervakhn,
An ende tsu makhn fun shklaferay in yedn land.
Oytsres mit raykhe palatsn mit di tayerste shpayzn un vayn
Alts vos iz beser, farshlist men di shleser un undz
Lozt men ahin nit arayn.

Oy, rayst arop di shleser! Arbeter, nemt vos aykh kimt.
Di oytsres hot ir bashafn, di palatsn zind far aykh bashtimt.
Tseshmetert di pyavkes vos zoygn un plogn aykh fun eybik on.
Oy! Rayst arop di shleser un tsit oyf di royte fon.

Ven der tate krigt nit keyn arbet
Un di mame iz krank un farshmakht
Un di kinder kleyne zey klogn un veynen
Nokh a shtikl broyt tog un nakht,
Ven di bank iz gepakt mit milyonen,
Mit diamonds geshtopt iberal,
Un far der arbeter klase iz farshlosn di kase,
A shlos vos heyst kapital!

Di raykhe zey roybn milyonen un geyn arum fray un fayn,
Un der oreman oys noyt ven er ganvet a broyt,
Shlist men im in prison arayn!
Der boss fort zikh zumer in country
Amuzirt zikh un lebt zikh a prakht.
Un der arbeter muz zitsn, mit blut muz er shvitsn
Farshlosn in shop tog un nakht.

Tear Down The Locks (Tear Down the Castles)

Workers from all lands, all together, unite!
It's time already to wake up and make an end of slavery in every land.
Treasures and rich palaces, with the richest food and wine -
And what's better, the door is locked and they don't let us in.

Tear down the locks, worker, take what's owed you.
You created the treasures, the palaces are for you.
Smash the leeches who've always tormented and sucked at you.
Tear down the locks and raise up the red flag.

When the father has no work and the mother is sick and fainting,
When day and night the little children lament and cry for a bit of bread,
When the bank is packed with millions, stuffed with diamonds everywhere
And the cashbox is locked against the working class with a lock called "capital."

The rich rob millions and go around free and comfortable.
And the poor man, when from desperation he steals a bit of bread, they lock him in prison.
The boss travels to the country in the summer, he amuses himself and lives it up.
And the worker must sit and sweat blood, locked in the shop day and night.

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:

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