Polish Jewish Cabaret: a library of wonderful but forgotten Yiddish songs of the 1920s - 1930s. Have a listen!

1. Link to list of posts on this site
2. Link to songs for sale
3. Click here for our music videos of Yiddish songs with English subtitles (mainly post-1925)
4. List of the still lost songs. Do you know any of them?
5. Warszawa zumerkurs song links


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Lebedike yesoymim (Children of divorced parents) - a Yiddish warning and lament.

UPDATE: Reposted because thanks to Yiddish Pour Tous I just found another version of this song, from 1917, sung by Anna Hoffman, hiding on YouTube under the name A Kind un a Heim

Here's our version on Youtube:

Mappamundi performs Yiddish theater songsOr you can click the album cover to listen to and/or buy this track, Lebedige yesoimim, and all the others from our cd Nervez!

Randy Kloko sings this luscious waltz, Aviva Enoch plays piano. This song is the most obscure of three by the same name. The other two songs can be found in sheet music form, one with words by Max Zavodnik / music by Henry A. Russotto, the other by "Samuel Secunda."

This one, which Itzik Zhelonek cited as a song performed by Herman Fenigstein, I transcribed from Fenigstein's own recording, found at the Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture.

Though the title is often translated 'lively orphans,' in this case it means 'children whose parents are still living, but who due to divorce now live like orphans.' The song changes point of view, from omniscient narrator to the orphan(s), sometimes addressing the parents, sometimes the children, sometimes God.

Divorce and its effect on children is an unusual theme for a Yiddish song. Have a listen, I think Randy kills it.

Though Zhelonek took down the words shtub-mame un shtub-tate (house-mom and house-dad), and though he is citing the very recording I have (which is a rare happenstance!), I listened carefully and think Fenigstein is singing shtif-mame un shtif-tate (stepmother and stepfather). Also, inexplicably, Zhelonek's text gives shoyn dayn zind mer nisht dermonen, which is the opposite of what is sung.

Transliteration and translation below:
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Friday, September 14, 2018

S'iz gut far mir (It's good for me) aka Sgit far mir - an old song recently revived.

The Forvert recently featured this song called "S'iz gut far mir" aka S'iz git far mir - "It's good for me," as sung by Levy Falkowitz. Here's his version is on Youtube:

לוי פולקוביץ ותזמורתו של יוחי בריסקמן "ס'גוט פאר מיר" | Levy Falkowitz - Yochi Briskman Orchestra

Falkowitz credits the song to Boruch Hass, who performed it at "Sliches night in Kiev" in 1992. Hass wrote the second verse (and removed a reference to a pretty girl in the third verse) but otherwise...

... the song actually goes back many decades. Max Perlman sang it throughout his career, crediting it to Aaron Lebedeff.

Here is a relatively modern Perlman version, from "Max Perlman Greatest Hits Vol 1."

Perlman's first and second verses are also sung by Falkowitz, but his third verse is about politics (see below).

And here is a great version sung by Henri Gerro:

In the Henri Gerro version the second verse is about a pretty girl and the third verse is about a car, but I don't have the lyrics for you.

Lyrics in transliteration and translation after the jump. If you want the sheet music write to me.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Tsen kopikes hob ikh (I have ten kopecks) - Aaron Lebedeff hit - first of the new shlager series!

At "Trip to Yiddishland 2018" last week I was talking with Alec Burko about his amazing project, the Yiddish Dialect Dictionary. We both love obscure corners of Yiddish culture. I said "people are only ever searching for the same few popular Yiddish songs, like Mayn shtetele Belz. They don't know to search for something they have never heard before."

Alec suggested I should put some of the most popular Yiddish songs on this blog, and then when people found them, they might stick around and look at some of the less famous songs and might even realize the rare ones are JUST AS GOOD AS the ones they already know. Or better.

So I'm going to follow his advice and put some hits on this blog (shlager means a hit). I'm starting with Tsen Kopikes; somebody was going to sing it at one of the cabarets at Trip to Yiddishland and Eli Rosen asked if I'd accompany the guy. I would have, happily, but the guy chickened out. But it's a great song! It may have been at least partially a folk song, fragments of the lyrics were collected and printed by folklorist Shloyme Bastomski.

Here's the classic Aaron Lebedeff recording -


By the way, the whole compilation album Odessa Mama is one hit after another, highly recommended.

If you want the sheet music with chords, email me. The Yiddish lyrics (words and translation) are here after the jump.

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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Don der Dondek (Don the Ninny) - my personal protest song (with subtitles) against Combover Caligula

In 2015 I submitted a song to "Der Yidisher Idol" - known as "Der Idisher Idol" in Mexico City, which is where the competition took place. I got an all-expense-paid trip to Mexico City to sing in the contest, and I won. Read about me getting chosen as Grand Champion of Der Yidisher Idol 2015.

I wrote Don der Dondek for this year's competition but it was rejected for two reasons: "We don't mix politics and culture," and "You already won so you can't compete again." Fair enough.

Writing this was cathartic, and Yiddish is, as you know, an excellent language for insults. I used two dictionaries and Nahum Stutchkoff's Rhyming Dictionary and also his thesaurus. Afterwards my friends did overdubs, Randy Kloko sang on the chorus, Jim Baird played bass and Ken Bloom played guitar. Thanks guys! The translation is after the jump, if you want the Yiddish text just email me.

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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Shvayg mayn harts by Herman Yablokoff - was it really the source of the eden ahbez hit "Nature Boy" ?

I was asked to look into this song by a reader who wrote because he'd heard Nat King Cole's hit "Nature Boy" was plagiarized from Herman Yablokoff's Shvayg mayn harts and was frustrated not to be able to find a recording of Yablokoff's song.

As with many people who say they are dying for help, when I asked him to help defray the cost of buying the expensive sheet music from Florida Atlantic University, he never responded. I went ahead anyway.

So here's a condensed version of the story: After a concert in 1947, Nat King Cole’s valet gave Cole a song chart he'd been handed backstage by a stranger. Cole wanted to record it but needed permission.

His people found the composer, eden ahbez, living with his wife and child under the first "L" of the Hollywood Sign above Los Angeles. ahbez had long Jesus hair and wore white robes and ate only vegetables, fruits, and nuts; he was one of a gang calling themselves "Nature Boys." He claimed to live on three dollars per week.

He was born Alexander Aberle in 1908 in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jewish father and a Scottish-English mother, and spent his early years in the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum of New York. He later changed his name to (lower case) eden ahbez.

Cole's recording of the ahbez song was #1 for seven weeks. It was subsequently recorded by many other famous singers.

ahbez was then sued by Herman Yablokoff, who claimed the melody came from Shvayg mayn harts. Ahbez often claimed to have "heard the tune in the mist of the California mountains" or "in the solitude of a cave." However, he paid Yablokoff $25,000.

Was the song stolen? ahbez lived in New York City in the 1930s, during or after the period when Herman Yablokoff's Yiddish show Papirosn was doing very well on Second Avenue. Yablokoff wrote about the lawsuit in a full chapter of his 1981 autobiography Der Payatz but I haven't seen the book. However, here's another opinion, from kuvo.org:
ahbez always said that the melody had come to him “as if an angel was singing it”; Yablokoff’s response was that if the angels were singing it they must have bought a copy of his song. The similarity of both to a portion of Antonin Dvorak’s 1887 “Piano Quintet No. 2”, based in part on Czechoslovakian folk music, suggests that either Dvorak’s music or Czech folk music had influenced both Yablokoff and ahbez.
Also probably in the mid-1930s Jack Rechtseit wrote a song by almost the same name and with a similar theme. I wrote about it and recorded it a while back, see Shvayg, hertsele!

Here is the recording Aviva Enoch and I made this week of Shvayg mayn harts. She played pretty much what was in the sheet music.

Here are the eden ahbez and Nat King Cole's versions:

Yiddish transliteration and English translation of Shvayg mayn harts after the jump:

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