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

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Lost Yiddish songs: A ganef's a trer (A gonif's a trer)

In my quest to find all the melodies for the 130 song texts published by Itzik Zhelonek, I've been to YIVO, talked to the National Yiddish Book Center people, visited the Library of Congress and the Holocaust Museum's musicologist. I've corresponded with Bob Freedman at the University of Pennsylvania and the Medem Bibliotheque and the Schaechters and the Gottesmans and Rochelle and Sheva Zucker and ... I still have 46 lost songs. So I am going to post them, in alphabetical order, on this blog in hopes that somebody will come along and have some of the melodies for me.

The first two are from the musical Urke Nakhalnik. As I've mentioned, Urke was a nice Jewish boy turned underworld boss who got busted, did time in prison, then wrote an autobiography that was so successful they let him out of prison early. His life story was turned into both a play and, evidently, a musical, because Itsik Zielanek includes two songs from the piece.

A gonefs a trer

Elnt bin ikh shoyn in veg geven
Shoyn fun kindheyt kh'hob far zikh di shayn derzen
noyt un elnt georemt hobn mikh shtark
getribn ganvenen in gas in mark

s'hot dos lebn mikh gelernt shlekht
ganvenen teg un nekht...

Veyn, neshome mayne, veyn vos mer
Oykh bay a ganev iz faran a heyse trer
A trer a heyse nisht far keyn heym keyn hoyz
Nor fun dem bekher vos zi gist zikh oys
(refreyn)

Briderl ven otem khapt dikh on
Kumt a froy un nemt dikh heys un shtark arum
Ez benkt dos hartz es nogt nokh glik un freyd
Ganove umfarshemterheyt
(refreyn)

here's a quick and dirty translation:

A thief's tear
I was lonely in my path, I had to take care of myself from childhood on.
Deprivation and desolation made me very poor
and drove me to thieving in the street, in the market

Life has taught me badly, to go stealing day and night...

Cry, my soul, cry even more
A thief, too, has a hot tear, not for a home or house,
but for the bottle he pours from

Little brother, when your breath catches
A woman comes and takes you, your heart yearns for happiness
Shameless thievery

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