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

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Dir a nickel, mir a nickel - from Fishel der gerotener, a song about getting ahead as a trolley conductor

This song is in the Kemmen Folio of Famous Jewish Theatre Songs I bought on eBay. It's from the show Fishel der gerotener. Gerotener means a well-made, all round class A type of person, but Menashe Skulnik played the hapless trolleyman so you know the nickname was sarcastic. The lyrics are by Isidore Lillian and the music is by Joseph Rumshinsky.

It could be "Dir a nikl mir a nikl," but the correct way to spell nickel in Yiddish is problematic, since at the time the Jews were cramming English into their vocabularies as fast as possible. You'll also find it as Fishl der Konduktor. Fishel is enjoying the shmirn (smears, bribes) that come his way.

I'm not doing a video if this song because Bruce Adler did a great one, with subtitles, and an orchestra! His version (below) is featured at the Milken Archive where you can read the plot of Fishl der gerotener. I have special interest in this show because Ola Lilith played one of the love interests.



My friend, pianist Aviva Enoch, and I did record it just for fun. Here's ours from yesterday:



If you want the sheet music with lyrics, translation, chords, etc., here it is:




My translation:



Everybody knows me! When they see me they shout: Fishl the conductor!
They know me on Delancey Street, they know me on Broadway,
Fishel the conductor.

I gotta tell you, I don't ring up every nickel
I've noticed "The Company" has plenty of nickels already
So I've decided to share with them now equally.
Fishl!

A nickel for you, a nickel for me, that's the plan, understand,
A nickel for you, a nickel for me, share and share alike
The company, it should be dancing for joy
Thanking God I don't take everything!
A nickel for you, a nickel for me, share and share alike

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