Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Monday, February 24, 2020

Pak dayn tronk un gey - 1897 parody of the Irving Jones ragtime song "Take Your Clothes And Go"

In October, after I finished canvassing for the year, I thought I might try, yet again, to get better at playing the piano, so I wouldn't have to ask my pianist friends to help me with this project that pays nobody any money.

After taking lessons for a while - I was in fact working on this very song - I got sick and couldn't make myself practice for months. When I came back to the project, I'd lost a lot of ground, and instead of practicing until I could actually play it, I engineered the part, playing a few bars at a time and stitching them together with Audacity. Here's my living room recording:

An interesting song...

I've written often about the Yiddish parodist Isaac Reingold (look him up via the search bar) so let me tell you a bit about this melody's African-American composer, Irving Jones. He also wrote "Get Your Money's Worth," already featured on this blog.

His first big hit was today's song, published earlier that same year: Take Your Clothes And Go. It sold about 100,000 copies over two years. Jones was one of the most successful African American composers of early ragtime era. He debuted with the Creole Burlesque Company in 1890 and was for many years a headliner on mainstream vaudeville circuits. All told, Jones published about fifty songs, twenty of them between 1898 and 1899.

The seedy genre known as "coon songs" came to a relatively quick end (after 600 or so were published). In July 1898 the "Christian Advocate" newspaper wrote: "All of that class of music is written at the expense of the Negro. Some people's idea of the colored man is based entirely on what they get from the coon songs and other ragged music [ragtime] of our degenerate day." Jones's last song "Any Old Way You Cook Chicken" was published in 1910.

You can read more about Jones, among others equally fascinating, in the great book "Spreading Rhythm Around: Black Popular Songwriters 1880-1930 by David A Jasen and Gene Jones.

3 verses of Isaac Reingold's Yiddish lyrics and translation after the jump. There were actually four verses - that would have take about eight minutes! I recorded only two.

Pak dayn tronk un gey

A froy vos hot gelebt mit zikherheyt az der man hot ir lib
Hot genumen oykh a borderke far heymlikhkeyt in shtib
Nor himl vos hot zi endekt, dos meydl hot zikh dem man farshmekt
Er spendt af ir kemat vos er farmogt.
Dos meydl trakht zikh nito keyn bokher zol zayn a bavaybter man,
Mit im a mol antloyfn vet nit zayn keyn shlekhter plan
Nor di froy iz ober nit mer keyn kind, un khapt a broomshtik, gikh, geshvind,
Un vent zikh tsu der borderke un zogt:

Farloz dos hoyz, den ikh makh fun dir a tel,
Mer zol dayn fus nit vogen ibertretn mayn shvel (dare)
A nomen vestu krign az in dr'erd vet zayn dayn kop
A moyd vest du farblaybn take biz in groyen tsop
Host gemeynt az du bist sheyn, vayl mayn man hot dikh geglet,
Azoy lang zolstu zayn krank, vi lang er volt mikh nit geget.
A vayb bin ikh im eyne un er darf keyn tsvey
Zo pak dayn tronk un gey!

A yunge almone nokh, vos hot ersht gekhapt insurens 500 rod,
Trakht, ikh volt gehat a man. volt ikh khasene gehat
Un gevorfn an oyg hot zi nokh frier
Afn border velkher stopt bay ir,
Vos est un tsolt keyn mol nit tsu der tsayt
Dervayl oys libe fargest der border tsu batsoln bord un rent
Un khapt nokh oft nit eyn mol bay der mises a por sent
Un ven zi makht im klor ir meyn,
Un hert zayn entfer davke "neyn,"
Vert zi shtark in kas af im un shrayt:!

Farloz dos hoyz du kharakterlozer ying,
Iz dos mayn loyn derfar, vos kh'hob gegebn dir altsding,
Host gegesn un getrunken, un gekrign fayne vesh,
Geshlofn vi a porets un gants oft gekrign kesh,
Avade hob ikh gerekhent, dir gefeln vet mayn plan.
Den ikh hob dikh bahandlt, vi a vayb ir eygenem man.
An andere af dayn ort volt nit geredt keyn tsvey,
Darum pak dayn tronk un gey!

A zinger, a poet, hot zikh dort ayngeredt, er ken oykh a lid
Un kumt un makht dos publikum, gants shleferik un mid
Aleyn farfaser, aleyn aktyor, un vos er ploydert zingt er for,
Un dos publikum muz es hern biz in sof.
Der zinger trakht zikh, s'muz gefeln den, keyner fayft im oys
Un dreyt zikh alts, un krimt zikh nokh tsu khapn an aployz,
Nor ven er shpringt aroys fun hoyt, un tut zikh zayns un hakt in kroyt,
Dan darf dos publikum entfern deroyf:

Farloz di steydzh un beser makh a shvayg,
Bahalt di kunst far dir, un farpak dayn shrayb getsayg,
Gey beser ver a pedler, oder lern zikh a treyd
Un lider shraybn loz - zay moykhl - tsu yener vos farshteyt
Dayn shraybn un dayn zingen, toyg af tsores say vi say
Du baleydikst nor di feder mit dayn oreme shrayberay
Du ligst undz shoyn in mogen mit dayn fool kuplee
Beser pak dayn tronk un gey!

Pack Your Trunk and Go

A woman who lived secure that her husband loved her
Also took a young woman as a baorder, for a cheerful home
But heaven ?? the girl tempted the man
He spent on her almost everything he earned
The girl thought, "I don't want a bachelor, I'll have a married man,
Running away with him doesn't sound like a bad plan."
But the wife is no child and quickly grabs a broomstick
And turns to the boarder and says:

Leave the house, I'll make a corpse out of you,
Your foot dares not cross my threshold again
You'll get such a reputation your head will be in the ground
You'll be unmarried until your braid is gray
You thought you were pretty, because my husband caressed you,
You should be sick as long as it takes for him to divorce me.
I'm his only wife and he doesn't need two
So pack your trunk and go!

A widow, still young, who just received a $500 insurance payment
Thinks: "I'd like a husband, I want to marry."
She quickly took a look at the boarder living at her place,
the one who eats and doesn't pay rent on time
Meanwhile out of love the boarder forgets to pay room and board
And in addition he often hits the landlady up for some money.
And when she makes her intentions clear,
And hears his answer, which is precisely, "NO!"
She gets very angry at him and shouts:

Leave the house, you young bum,
Is this my reward? After I've given you everything?
You eat and drink and get fine washing,
You sleep like a prince and often get cash.
Naturally I thought you'd like my plan,
So I treated you as a wife treats her own husband.
Another in your position wouldn't complain,
So pack your trunk and leave!

A singer, a poet, thinks mistakenly that also understands song.
He comes and makes the audience completely sleepy and tired.
He's the writer, he's the actor, he sings his own babblings,
And the audience has to listen to the very end.
The singer thinks it must be pleasing
since they aren't whistling him off the stage
He gyrates and grimaces to get applause.
But when he jumps out of his skin, doing his thing and chewing scenery,
Then the audience responds:

Leave the stage, you'd better shut up,
Set aside your "art" and pack up your writing gear!
It'd be better to become a peddler or learn a trade,
Leave songwriting, excuse me, to those who understand it.
Your writing and singing are no good anyway.
You insult the pen with your poor scribbling.
You make us sick with your stupid couplets
Just pack your trunk and go!

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:


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