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

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Friday, June 12, 2020

Ikh lib dikh beser als before - Yiddish parlor song, tune: "I Loved You Better Than You Knew"

I love you better than before
To sing with the melody from the English song
I Love You Better Than You Know
Created by the famous artist Elias Rothstein


I've only seen the name Elias Rothstein a couple times before, so I looked him up.

Rothstein was born in Warsaw (though in the census it says Russia) in 1870 and early took to the boards. He came to America in 1891.

Zylberzweig wrote:

In theatre circles Rothstein was known as an elegant gentleman. He used to continually dress in an English style and sought to make a good impression both with his clothing, as with his manners.


He died in 1932 and is buried in Brooklyn.



The 1903 sheet music for the American song (note they got the title a bit wrong, as is usually the case) spells the composer's name both as Johnnie and Johnny Carroll. It's a typical Tin Pan Alley tear-jerker, as is the Yiddish version.

Bob Vasile risked the coronavirus to come over and record the guitar track. I was sitting next to him sort of conducting because I couldn't sing and louse up his track. Then I stuck earbuds in my ears and sang along to his track for the video. Here's our living room recording:


Transliteration of the Yiddish and translation after the break.


Ikh lib dikh beser als befor

Adieu tsum letstn mol gelibte
Filaykht ze ikh dikh shoyn nit mer
Gelibt hot ikh dikh vi mayn lebn
Der opsheyd iz far mir zo shver.
Du fregst oyb ikh ken fargesn
Di tsayt fun libe un fun glik.
Oh, gloyb az vu ikh vel zikh kern
Vet mikh farfolgn dayn blik.

Un vu ikh bin, mayn herts iz eynzam.
Ikh benk: gedenk dikh gut af klor.
Du bist far mayne oygn imer.
Ikh lib dikh beser als befor

Ikh layd durkh dir nor ikh fargib dir
Du host keyn shuld in mayne shmerts
Du virst mir imer blaybn tayer
Imer do bay mir in herts
Un ven di tsayt vird far mir kumen
Shterbn elnd in der noyt
Oykh dan vel ikh fun dir nor denken
Un libn erenst biz in toyt

Oykh dortn in dem shtiln keyver
Vu ales vert fargesn gor
Oykh dortn vel ikh nokh dir benken
Un libn beser als befor

I love you better than before

Goodbye for the last time, beloved, perhaps I'll never see you again.
I loved you like my life; this parting is so hard for me.
You ask if I can forget the time of love and happiness.
Oh, believe that wherever I turn your glance will follow me.

And where I am, my heart is forlorn. I'm yearning, believe me.
You are always before my eyes - I love you better than before.

I suffer because of you but I forgive you
My heart doesn't blame you.
You'll always be dear to me, always here in my heart.
And when the time comes for me to die, alone, destitute,
Then, too, I will think only of you and will love you earnestly even in death.

And in the quiet grave, too, where everything is completely forgotten
There, too, I'll long for you and love you better than before.



For sheet music and/or performances contact me: jane@mappamundi.com

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June 13, 2020 at 4:37 PM  

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