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

Di gantse velt iz mayn (Yiddish vaudeville waltz by Sadie Levin) published in 1903

This is one of only two or three songs written by Sadie Levin, the only woman to be credited for creating parodies of American hit Tin Pan Alley songs.

"The Whole World Is Mine" by Sadie Levin, to sing with the melody from "The boys in the gallery for mine"

This one is even more obscure than usual because the underlying song, The Boys in the Gall'ry for Mine," is hard to find (and if you look for it under the name given on the Yiddish song sheet, The Boys In The Gallery For Mine, you will never find it).

The original song panders to the working-class people in the cheap seats high up near the ceiling. It says, the people who pay for the expensive seats (we'd call them the orchestra or box seats I guess) will put up with a lousy performance, but the boys up in the peanut gallery will certainly let you know if you're no good. We've seen that in English and Yiddish songs alike - in "Back to the Tailor Shop" our protagonist is pelted with potatoes, rotten apples, and eggs when the people in the balcony are not impressed by his acting.

The song Sadie wrote is about an odd character - he's basically a bum (a mekabl is a receiver of charity, a person living on public assistance), but with some yikhes and at least enough erudition to fool people with more money than education.

I thought the tune was quite dull but after we got done with it I have some affection for it. Thanks to Bob Vasile for playing guitar and Beth Holmgren for joining me on the chorus. Here's our living room rendition:

The lyrics and the translation from the Yiddish after the jump.

Di gantse velt iz mayn

Men ruft mikh mekabl, klekoydesh, mekhabl,
Men zogt az ikh leb nor fun kool
Ikh leb take gliklekh, ikh ken ale shtiklekh
Vos makht mir balibt on a tsol
Mayn haltn zikh hoykh, mayn rabonishe boykh
Keyn en ore dos gibt mir tsu kheyn
Mayn yikhes fun tomid, mayn davnen baym omed
Oykh darshenen ken ikh gants sheyn...

Un azoy iz di gantse velt mayn, a gast bin ikh vu ikh kum arayn
Es iz a groys koved un ehre bay zey, az ikh trink bay vemen a glezele tey
Af a hokhtsayt di ershte gloz vayn,
Af a bris muz ikh sandek'e zayn
Un in shul kumt mir shlishi i mafter i shishi
Un azoy iz di gantse velt mayn

Ikh veys mayn politik, tsu frishtik tsu mitik,
Bazukh ikh a raykhn bankir
Ikh nem mit mayn eydem vos frest far tsen sheydim (devils)
Ikh halt im af kest bay mir
Men bet undz tsum tish, mit fleysh un mit fish
Men lozt zikh nit betn keyn sakh,
Nokh dem arayn raybn, zog ikh, ikh gey klaybn,
Af zeyer a noytike zakh...

Ikh nem fun der pushke far mayn koolishe kishke
Fun lebedike, toyte, ikh rays
Do shrayb ikh a tsetl, a ksube, a getl,
Ikh trakht ale vayle oys nayes
Tsu shmeykhlen on shir, a yedn gevir,
Dertsu bin ikh zeyer geshayt (crafty)
Ikh makh komplimentn un krig fil prezentn
Bay froyen bin ikh gor a layt

Thus Is The Whole World Mine

It's said I'm a free-loader, a religious functionary, a demon,
It's said I mooch off the community
I do in fact live happily: I know all the tricks
That make me endlessly beloved.
My arrogant air, my rabbi's belly -
No evil eye, folks find them charming!
My fine pedigree, my praying at the pulpit...
Also, I know how to hold forth very prettily.

And thus, the whole world is mine, wherever I show up I'm a guest
Folks feel honored and respected when I drink a cup of tea with them
I get the first glass of wine at a wedding,
At a bris I'm the one honored with holding the baby.
And in the synagogue I'm called to do the readings
The third, the sixth, the haftarah,
And thus the whole world is mine.

Here's my policy: at breakfast and lunchtime I look for a rich banker
I'm responsible for my son-in-law's meals so I take him with me.
He gobbles enough for ten devils.
We're invited to dine, on meat and fish,
Nothing is asked of us.
After I've stuffed myself, I say I have to go do something important.

I dip into the alms box to stuff my guts courtesy of the community.
I grab from the living and the dead.
Here and there I write up a receipt, a ketuba, a divorce document
I'm always thinking up something new.
I'm always smiling at every rich man. And in addition I'm very crafty:
I lay on the compliments and get lots of gifts.
Women think I'm really something.

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:


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