That's a picture of Gimpel Beynish the Matchmaker and one of his non-functioning cars. He's setting the scene for this prescient song about the role of gasoline (benzine) in our lives.
A reader of this blog from South Africa, Eli Goldstein, wrote and asked if I had this song, and I didn't, but I said if he would get me the text I'd make him sheet music. So he got his friend Cedric Ginsberg to do it, and then I traded some work with Sheva Zucker and had her vet the transcription, so while I was going to all that trouble, why not record it? So I did. Even though Max Perlman's wonderful version is on YouTube.
Max Perlman is a great singer, and it's so wonderful that a lot of his songs have been posted on youtube. He was born in 1909 in Riga, Latvia to a middle-class family. From the age of 6 he sang in a choir and then in Yiddish theater. He studied and performed in Riga, in Russian and in Yiddish. By the age of 20 he was performing in Kovno, Vienna, he toured Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, Belgium andEngland. In 1939 he was invited to Argentina, where he stayed for 3 years before moving onto Uruguay and Chile and, in 1945, to Latin America where he died in 1985. I don't know when he died.
Transliteration and translation after the jump.
Petroleum iz a tsoyberklang, un naft vi flisik gold
Di velt bakumen hot a nayem zin
Es hot der mentsh gevolt azoy, un di tsayt hot es gevolt
Az alts zol dreyen zikh arum benzin
Me zukht benzin, men grobt azoy di erd
Durkh blut un has, durkh fayer un durkh shverd
Ay vil men forn, oy vil men forn, nor tsum forn darf men ongisn benzin
Un az men gist nit keyn benzin,
Shtup aher un shtup ahin, es geyt nit, es fort nit di mashin.
In kasino dort baym yam, bay dem roleta-aparat
Yidn praven khtsos a gantse nakht
Dort shteyt reb Yankl, mit zayn vayb, shoyn opgeflikt oyf glat,
Farshpilt dem gantsn oytser vos gebrakht
Zayn vayb bet im, "Oy, Yankl, stop de game!"
Du vest nisht hobn mit vos tsu forn aheym
Un er vil forn, ay vil er forn, nor tsum forn darf men ongisn benzin
un az men gist nit keyn benzin,
Shtup aher un shtup ahin, es geyt nit, es fort nit di mashin
An almen shoyn fun akhtsik yor hot zikh a mol farglust
A yunge shayne meydl far a vayb
Dos meydl ober hot gevust az er hot gelt a sakh
Hot zi geheyrat tsulib tsatfartrayb
Dos yunge vaybl vi forn, nit shpatsirnt
Ahin der alter ken zikh shoyn nit rirn.
Ay er vil forn, ay vil er forn, nor tsum forn darf men ongisn benzin
un az men gist nisht keyn benzin,
Shtup aher un shtup ahin s'geyt nit, es fort nit di mashin
Ay vil men forn, ay vil men forn, nor tsum forn darf men ongisn benzin
un az men gist nit keyn benzin, hot dos lebn nit keyn zin
es geyt nit, es fort nit di mashin
"Petroleum" is a magic word, crude oil is like liquid gold.
The world has a new sense.
People want it like this, the times want it:
Everything turns on petroleum.
They search for petroleum, they dig in the earth,
Through blood, and hatred, through fire and the sword.
Ay, you want to drive, you want to drive,
but to drive you need to fill up with gas.
And when you don't pour in the gas you just have to push, this way and that. The machine won't go.
In the casino there by the ocean, by the roulette table,
Jews study and pray all night...
There stands Reb Yankl with his wife, he's been plucked clean!
He gambled away all the riches he'd brought!
His wife begs him, "Oy, Yankl, stop the game!
You won't have anything left to pay for the trip home!"
And he wants to drive...
An octogenarian widower is really hankering
To have a young girl for a wife.
The girl, from her side, knows he has lots of money, so she marries him to pass the time.
The young wife wants to drive, she doesn't want to walk! But the old guy just can't get moving.
Ay, he wants to drive...