“Dos fleshl/Tshort vos’mi” Performed by Jacob Gorelik

Commentary by Jane Peppler

Researching “Cabaret Warsaw,” a cd of music created and performed by Jews in Warsaw between the wars, I was pointed to a 1929 book called “35 letste teatr lider fun Azazel un Sambatiyon” (Azazel and Sambatiyon being two kleynkunst venues popular at the time). I found the book at Brooklyn’s Chasidic “Library Of Agudas,” along with six tiny books of theater songs and monologues (lyrics only) published in 1933 and 1934 by bookseller and record shop owner Itzik Zhelonek (Zielonek). I decided to track down the melodies for as many of these songs as possible (for more information click here); Itzik Gottesman sent me a version of one of them sung by Jacob Gorelik - this week’s Yiddish Song of the Week, known as “Dos fleshl” (the bottle) or “Tshort vos’mi” (The Devil Take’s It).
fleshele pic

Gorelik learned the song from a guy in Central Park – back when it was a place people went to “sing and play” (he contrasted that to its present reputation as a place to buy drugs). He didn’t know the man, or where the song came from, but he said it shares its melody with the Russian song “Kare Glaski” (“Brown Eyes,” see Russian lyrics below).

The words Gorelik sang were quite different from the lyric printed in “35 letste teatr lider” (texts to both versions are below). Sometimes singers “folk process” what they’ve heard, or they forget the words and re-imagine them from scratch.

Here is the song as sung by Jacob Gorelik, recorded in his NYC apartment, 1985, by Itzik Gottesman:

Gorelik’s spoken introduction, transcribed and translated by Itzik Gottesman:

Dos Fleshl introduction YiddishA special genre of songs are about drunks. Because, basically, the background of every drunk is a sad one: a person is not born drunk – troubles, bad habits, bad family; the father was a drunk. And here we have a song of a drunk, and he tells us, more or less, of his life. I don‘t know the father, the mother [of the song]; I don‘t know who wrote the song and who created the melody. Possibly it‘s an old theater song, very possiblew but it has the taste of a folksong. I heard it my first years in America in Central Park. I lived then at 110th street, near the park. And in those years the park was not just a place to sell drugs, or for other deviates. The park was the for the youth. We came and sang, played, sang. We were not afraid. We even slept there till 2:00 at night near the reservoir. And there I heard someone sing this song of a drunk. I don‘t remember his name.

The song of a drunk – ‘Tshort Voz’mi’, which means – The Devil Take It.
Gorelik’s version, transcribed and translated by Jane Peppler:

Yo, hob ikh in der velt alts farlorn
A yosim geblibn bin ikh fri
Mayne fraynt hob ikh, hob ikh shoyn lang farlorn
Mayn fraynt iz nor dos fleshl, tshort voz’mi

I’ve lost everything in this world,
I was orphaned at an early age.
I lost my friends long ago,
Only my bottle is my friend
The devil take it.

Ikh hob a mol a nomen gehat
azoy vi di greste aristokrasi
un haynt hob ikh im shoyn lang fargesn
vi ruft men mikh, freg baym fleshl, tshort voz’mi

I used to have a name like the great aristocrats
Now I’ve forgotten my former reputation,
What people call me now, ask the bottle
The devil take it.

Ikh hob a mol a heym gehat
Ergets vayt, ikh veys nisht vu
Haynt gey ikh arum na venad
Vu iz mayn heym?
Freg baym fleshl, tshort voz’mi

I used to have a home somewhere
Far away, I don’t know where.
Now I go around without a homeland.
Where is my home? Ask the bottle.
The devil take it.

Ikh hob a mol a gelibte gehat
Iz zi dokh tsu a tsveytn avek
Un haynt hob ikh fil, un lib nisht keyner
Mayn gelibte iz nor dos fleshl, tshort voz’mi

I used to have a sweetheart,
She’s left me for someone else.
And now I have so much, but I don’t love anybody
My sweetheart? Just this bottle.
The devil take it.

Here is the text printed in the 1929 collection:

Geven bin ikh a mentsh eyner
Bakant geven in der gantser velt
Haynt iz far mir alesding farlorn
Tsulib dir, mayn fleshele, okh! Tshort vosmi!

I used to be well known in the whole world
Now everything is lost to me because of you, my bottle,
The devil take it

Gehat hob ikh a kale Gitele
Antlofn iz zi, der tayvl veyst vu
Zi hot mir geton mayn lebn derkutshen
Tsulib dir, mayn fleshele, okh! tshort vosmi!

I had a bride, Gitele,
She’s run away, the devil knows where
She tormented my life thanks to you, my bottle
The devil take it

Men varft mir shteyner nokh in di gasn
“Shlogt im!” shrayt men, “dem bosyak.”
Zogt mir, menshn, farvos tut ir mikh hasn?
Tsulib dir, mayn fleshele, okh! Tshort vozmi!


People throw stones at me in the street.
“Hit that bum,” they cry,
Tell me, people, why do you hate me?
Because of you, my little bottle,
Oh, the devil take it.

Vu iz mayn foter? Vu iz mayn muter?
Vu iz mayn heymat, zogt mir vu?
Fun vandern iz mir shoyn mayn lebn farmiest
Tsulib dir, mayn fleshele, okh! Tsort vozmi!

Where is my father? My mother?
My homeland? Tell me, where?
My life is ruined by wandering,
Because of you, my little bottle
The devil take it.

S’vert mir erger in di letste tsaytn
Kh’bin shoyn alt un krank un farshmakht
Un, ikh shtarb avek, mayne libe laytn,
durkh dir, mayn fleshele, oy, a gute nakht!

Lately things have gotten worse for me,
I’m old and sick and languishing
I’m dying, my dear people,
Because of you, my little bottle,
oy, good night!

Yiddish text – Gorelik’s version:

dos fleshele yiddish 1

dos fleshele yiddish 2

Карие глазки (Brown Eyes)

Карие глазки, где вы скрылись.
Мне вас больше не видать.
Куда вы скрылись, запропали,
Навек заставили страдать.

Выньте сердце, положите
На серебряный поднос.
Вы возьмите, отнесите
Сердце другу, пока спит.

Мил проснётся, ужахнётся.
Милый помнит обо мне.
Мил потужит, погорюет
По несчастной сироте.

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One Response to ““Dos fleshl/Tshort vos’mi” Performed by Jacob Gorelik”

  1. cf. Nazaroff’s “Ir fregt mikh, vos ikh troyer” – same genre, atmosphere of loss, with vodka and the чёрт возьми phrase… The melody, though not the same, is in its basic structure quite similar.

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