Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Mame koyf mir a shvester (Yiddish version of Please, mamma, buy me a baby) from 1903

Mama buy me a sister by Shloyme Shmulewitz
To sing with the melody from the song
Please mamma buy me a baby



We have had many songs on this blog written by Solomon Smulewitz - note that at this early date he was still going with Shloyme, the old-country version of his first name. In later years he used the name Solomon Small. (He was a very portly man.)

The English song was published in 1903 by Will D. Cobb and Gus Edwards. I suppose it was popular in its day, but it's mostly disappeared now, and I will not weep over it. Couldn't find sheet music so I transcribed the singing of Byron G. Harlan (of Harlan and Collins): Please Mamma ... on Youtube.

When I sing these songs I never think normal people would want to sing them but I do think that someday they will make somebody a rich topic for a PhD thesis on Jewish immigrant life in New York at the turn of the century. Here's my living room recording:


Translation from the Yiddish and transliteration after the jump.



Mame, koyf mir a shvester

"Ikh, viste almone, darf geyn zukhn broyt,
Vayl, libes kind, dayn foter iz toyt.
Blayb, kind, in hoyz, nit gey afn gas,
Es ken zikh vos trefn kholile vekhas.
Shpiltsayg on' shir koyf ikh far dir."
Entfert dos yingele ir:

Mamenyu koyf mir a shvester, s'iz umetik mir aleyn.
A meydele azoy vi Ester Oy, mame iz zi sheyn!
Vi gliklekh iz mayn khaver Zisl er shpilt zikh imer mit ir
Mir vilt zikh oykh shpiln a bisl A shvesterl koyfzhe mir!

Abend aheym loyft di muter geshvind
Raykh mit hofenung tsu zen ir kind
Layder vos shreklikhes hot zi derblikt
Unter di fis fun a ferd ir kind ligt
Di muter fartsogt yomert un klogt
Dos kind khapt zikh uf un es zogt:

Mamenyu koyf mir a shvester, s'iz umetik mir aleyn.
A meydele azoy vi Ester Oy, mame iz zi sheyn!
Vi gliklekh iz mayn khaver Zisl er shpilt zikh imer mit ir
Mir vilt zikh oykh shpiln a bisl A shvesterl koyfzhe mir!

Fun dan iz farshvunden a hipsh bisl tsayt
Dos kleyne yingele iz shoyn a layt
Groys in gevuks un raykh in gefil (feeling/sensitive)
Layder iz er imer umetik shtil
Di mame atsind fregt vos iz, kind?
Der bokherl entfert geshvind:

Mame, ikh vil Zisl's shvester,
S'iz umetik mir aleyn
A meydele azoy vi Ester
Nirgend (nowhere) gefinstu, neyn!
A kale hot mayn khaver Zisl
Imer farbrengt er mit ir
Kh'vil oykh farbrengen a bisl,
Ze, Esterln krig far mir!

Mama, buy me a sister

I, a desolate widow, must go looking for bread
because, dear child, your father is dead.
Stay here in the house, child, don't go out on the street.
Something terrible could happen, God forbid!
I'll buy you tons of toys."
The child answered her:

Mama, buy me a sister, I'm sad all by myself
A girl like Esther, oh mama, she's so pretty!
My friend Zisl is so happy, he plays with her all the time
I want to play a little too! Buy me a sister!

The mother runs home quickly in the evening,
Really looking forward to seeing her child
Alas, what a terrible thing she sees:
Her child is lying under a horse's hooves!
The despondent mother weeps and wails.
Her child wakes up and says:

Mama, buy me a sister, I'm sad all by myself
A girl like Esther, oh mama, she's so pretty!
My friend Zisl is so happy, he plays with her all the time
I want to play a little too! Buy me a sister!

A lot of time passed after that;
The little boy has become a fine young man.
Grown tall, and rich in feelings.
Alas, he is still always sad.
Now the mother asks, "What's the matter, child?"
The young man answers quickly:

Mama, I want Zisl's sister. It's sad for me to be always alone.
A girl like Esther you can't find anywhere, no!
My friend Zisl has a bride and he's always having a good time with her.
I want to have a little fun, too, see? Buy Esther for me!









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

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June 13, 2020 at 4:38 PM  

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