Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Youtube: all the Penny Songs I've recorded so far (with subtitles)

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Monday, June 8, 2020

Es kumen on besere teg - Yiddish Workers / Union song by Isaac Reingold

Better Days Are Coming
Created by Isaac Reingold
To sing with the English melody from
She May Have Seen Better Days

The is the second song written to this melody, the previous was Vu nemt men amolike yor? by David Meyerowitz.

She May Have Seen Better Days was published in 1894. James Thornton was the composer and lyricist. As I wrote on the previous post, you can hear his song on youtube as sung by George Gaskin back in the day, and a generation later by Beatrice Kay, who made a career singing songs of the "Gay 90s."

Again here we have a bitterly sincere lyric set to a sentimental waltz tune. Nobody would do that these days.

I still had the bass and guitar tracks recorded live and simultaneously (hence the informal character) by Jim Baird and Ken Bloom.  Here's my living room recording:

I sang only the second and third verses but you'll find a transliteration from the Yiddish and translation of all three verses after the jump.

Es kumen on besere teg

Vu nem ikh talant, di pen in der hand,
Di verter, dem gayst un dem zin,
Tsu treystn in noyt, dem kempfer far broyt
Dem arbetsman, di velt mashin
Hofenungloz hot im di armuth gemakht
Zayn eybiger groyzamer faynd
Dokh shtark zikh bam muth, es vet nokh zayn gut
Fartsveyfl nit, tayere fraynd

Es kumen on besere teg, du verst nokh oyfgerekht
Es kumen on besere teg, nit eybik vet zayn shlekht
O di tsayt iz nit vayt
Fun yoysher un mentshlikhe rekht
Di goldene frayhayt geyt forverts ir veg
Es kumen on besere teg

Ikh gloyb es iz var, az elnt un tsar
Zey roybn dayn gayst un dayn muth
Az veytog un shmerts tsebrekht dir dayn herts
Un tropensvayz trift oys dayn blut
Du zest vi dayn himl iz finster un shvarts
Dayn shtrebn iz shvakher derfun
Dokh blik in der zayt un ze vi fun vayt
Es geyt uf dayn likhtike zun...

Barekhn zikh nor: fil tsendlike yor
Es geyen mit gor nit avek
Du makhst raykh di velt, shafst oytsres mit gelt
Un dir blaybt nor tsores un shlek
Dokh meyn nit az imertsu blaybt es vi haynt
Di shtunde fun glik iz nit vayt
Darum vek uf in zikh dayn "mentsh" un dayn "ikh"
Farshlof nit di kunftike tsayt

Better Days Are Coming

Where do I, pen in hand, find talent,
The words, the spirit and sense
To console they who fight for bread in their desolation
The working man, who powers the world
Poverty made him feel hopeless,
And his eternal pitiless enemy
But hey, cheer up, things will improve
Don't be discouraged, dear friend

Better days are coming, you'll get back on your feet
Better days are coming, things won't be so bad forever
The time for justice and rights is coming soon
Golden freedom is walking her path forward,
Better days are coming.

I believe it's true that distress and anxiety
Steal away your spirit and courage,
That pain and heartache break your heart
And your blood trickles out little by little.
You see the sky, gloomy and sinister;
It weakens you in your struggle.
But look to the side and you'll see, from afar,
The bright sun is rising...

Just consider: Decades have passed
And nothing's happened.
You make the world rich, you create golden treasure
But you're left with only misery and disaster.
Don't think it's always going to be as it is today
The hour of happiness isn't far off.
So wake up your humanity, your self-confidence!
Don't sleep through the time that's coming!

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:


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June 13, 2020 at 4:39 PM  

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