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“Shikhelekh” Performed by Gertrude Singer and Manya Bender

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2021 by yiddishsong

“שיכעלעך/Shikhelekh/Shoes” – An early American Yiddish theater song that crossed the Atlantic and came back. First version sung by Gertrude Singer, recorded by Gertrude Nitzberg, Baltimore 1979 from the archive of the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Second version sung by Manya Bender, recorded by Ruth Rubin 1950, NYC, found at the Ruth Rubin Archive, YIVO.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

“Shikhelekh” a song about a boy in an immigrant family desperate to get a new pair of shoes, is interesting because there are two versions: one with a sad ending and one with a happy ending.

The older version, 5 verses long, with the sadder ending was first printed in the 1897 compilation Di yidishe bine, ed. J. KatzenelenbogenNY. (A scan is attached). In this version the boy complains he cannot go to school barefoot and asks his father to buy a pair of shoes in the store next to his school. The song concludes with the father, “powerless”, crying together with the boy. This version was reprinted with the title “Papa mit dem shikhele” no date, in American Yiddish Penny Songs edited by Jane Peppler, 2015. (scan attached). We have not yet found recordings of this older version.

The newer version ( approx. 1916) with a “happy ending” concludes with a verse that relates how that young barefoot boy is now a lawyer and the girl he is with, playing “fortepian”, is his bride. The final refrain is:

Nu, Papa do you remember how eight years ago,
when I cried and begged you to buy me a pair of shoes.
Now I am a lawyer, and will make you happy for all of your years.

The singer, Gertrude Singer (1900 – 1979), recounts how she sang it often on the ship coming to America from Warsaw. In the Ruth Rubin Archive at YIVO, Manye Bender who learned the song in Bessarabia  “on the way to America.” also sings the new version.  Click here for her performance, beginning with the line “In droysn iz fintster”. 

The transcription, translation and Yiddish of both versions follows below.

It is not clear who the composer is of the older “unhappy” version. The Mloteks point out in their Forverts newspaper column that in the collection “Di yidishe bine” it is placed right after Morris Rosenfeld poems but it does not appear in his collected works. In the column on June 20, 1976, the music as remembered by a reader is also printed.

The later-adapted revision with the happy ending was the work of the singer Josef/Joseph Feldman around 1916. On a song sheet for “Shichalach” as sung by Moishe Oisher (no date), the words are credited to singer Joseph (Josef) Feldman (scans attached). But on page two, it is written “Version by Jos Feldman”, acknowledging his text as a revision of an earlier song. On a 78 rpm record (1916) Josef Feldman recorded it and one can hear it at the Florida Atlantic University “Recorded Sound Archives”

In 1938, Joseph Feldman published the Joseph Feldman’s Yiddish Theaterical Magaizine. The verses and music are published here.

The happy vs. sad ending of “Shikhelekh”  brings up an interesting point: could the generation after the original 1890s version no longer accept such a sad ending, and thus inspire the happy, nostalgic song conclusion of 1916?

Thanks this week to Jane Peppler, Steven Lasky and his Museum of the Yiddish Theater, the YIVO Sound Archives and the Judaica Sound Archives at Florida Atlantic University. 

TRANSLITERATION, TRANSLATION and YIDDISH

Shikhelekh sung by Gertrude Singer, recorded in 1979.

1 ) In droysn is fintster, in droysn iz nas,
un du gey ikh borves, ikh ken nisht geyn in gas.
Papa, ikh beyt mir far dir azoy fil mul.
koyf mir a pur shikhelekh. Ikh ken nisht geyn in “skul.”
Oy papa, di zolst dir oysbeytn a git yur.
Koyf mir, papele, shikhelekh a pur.  
Oy, koyf mir, papele, shikhelekh a pur.

2) Der papa blaybt shteyn mit a troyern [troyerik] geveyn
biz zayne trern faln afn kind aleyn.
“Kind mayns, du veyst vi azey ikh hob dikh lib.
Tsulib dayne shikhelekh vel ikh farpanen a kishn fun shtib.
Oy kind mayns, mir zoln shoyn nisht hobn mer keyn noyt.
Tsulib dayne shikhelekh hob [iz nishto] ikh nishto keyn broyt.
Orem mayn kind iz nokh erger vi der toyt.”

3) In di tsayt flit avek un es iz shoyn akht yur
Kik on [?] dem boychik, er vert shoyn a “loyer.”
Dort zitst a meydele vos zi shpilt pian.
Me zugt az dos meydele vet dem loyer’s kale zayn.
Nu, papa, gedenkstu tsurik mit akht yur
ven ikh hob dikh gebeytn far shikhelekh a pur.
Yetst bin ikh loyer un ikh makh dikh glikekh 
af ale dayne yor.

1) Outside it’s dark; outside it’s wet,
and I am walking barefoot; I can’t go in the street.
Papa, I’ve asked you so many times
to buy me a pair of shoes. I can’t go to school.
Oy papa, may you succeed in praying for a good year.
Buy me, papa, a pair of shoes
Oy, buy me, dear papa, a pair of shoes

2) Papa remains standing with a sad weeping,
until his tears drop on his child.
“My child, you know how much I love you:
because of your shoes, there is no bread.
To be poor is worse than death.”

3)  Time flies and it’s eight years later.
Look at the boy [?] – he is soon to be a  lawyer.
There sits a girl who plays grand piano.
They say that she will be the lawyer’s bride.
So, papa, remember eight years ago
when I begged you for a pair of shoes?
Now I am a lawyer and I will make you happy
all of your years.

שיכעלעך 
געזונגען פֿון גערטרוד זינגער
רעקאָרדירט פֿון גערטרוד ניצבערג
.אין דרויסן איז פֿינצטער, אין דרויסן אין נאַס

.און דאָ גיי איך באָרוועס, איך קען נישט גיין אין גאַס
,פּאַפּאַ, איך בעט מיר פֿאַר דיר אַזוי פֿיל מאָל
.קויף מיר אַ פּאָר שיכעלעך. איך קען נישט קיין אין סקול
.אוי, פּאַפּאַ, דו זאָלסט דיר אויסבעטן אַ גוט יאָר
.קויף מיר, פּאַפּעלע, שיכעלעך אַ פּאָר
“.אוי, קויף מיר, פּאַפּעלע, שיכעלעך אַ פּאָר

דער פּאַפּאַ בלײַבט שטיין מיט אַ טרויעריק געוויין
.ביז זײַנע טרערן פֿאַלֹן אויפֿן קינד אַליין
.קינד מײַנס, דו ווייסט ווי אַזוי איך האָב דיך ליב”
.צוליב דײַנע שיכעלעך, וועל איך פֿאַרפּאַנען אַ קישן פֿון שטוב
.אוי, קינד מײַנס, מיר זאָלן שוין נישט האָבן מער קיין נויט
.צוליב דײַנע שיך איז נישטאָ קיין ברויט
“.אָרעם, מײַן קינד, איז נאָך ערגער ווי דער טויט
און די צײַט פֿליט אַוועק און עס איז שוין אַכט יאָר

.קוק אָן דעם בויטשיק; ער ווערט שוין אַ לויער
.דאָרטן זיצט אַ מיידעלע, וואָס זי שפּילט פּיאַן.
.מע זאָגט, אַז דאָס מיידעלע, וועט דעם לויערס כּלה זײַן
,נו, פּאַפּאַ, געדענקסטו צוריק מיט אַכט יאָר”
?ווען איך האָב דיך געבעטן פֿאַר שיכעלעך אַ פּאָר
יעצט בין איך איצט לויער און איך מאַך דיך גליקלעך 
.אויף אַלֹע דײַנע יאָר.

TRANSLITERATION, TRANSLATION AND YIDDISH

Shikhelekh by Manya Bender

1) In droysn iz fintster, in droysn iz nas.
“ikh hob nit kayn shikhelekh tsu geyn oyf der gas.
Papa, ikh bet dir, azoy fil mol.
Koyf zhe mir shoyn, koyf zhe mir shoyn shikhelekh a por.
Koyf zhe mir shoyn, koyf zhe mir shoyn shikhelekh a por.”

2) S’iz avek gegangen a lange tsayt,
Dos kind iz gevorn a groyser advokat.
Er zitst mit zayn meydl, zey shpiln beyde pian.
di meydl zogt, zi vil zayn kale zayn.
“Papa, gedenkstu mit azoy fil yor tsurik.
Ikh hob dir gebeytn shikhelekh a por?
Un itst makh ikh dir gilklekh af ale dayne yor.” 

TRANSLATION of BENDER

1) Outside it’s dark, outside it’s wet
“I don’t have a shoes to go out in the street.
Papa, I’ve asked you so many times  
Buy me, buy me a pair of shoes.”

2)  A long time had passed.
The child became a big-time lawyer.
He sits with his girlfriend; they both are playing piano.
The girl says she wants to be his bride.
Papa, do you remember many years ago?
I asked you to get me a pair of shoes.
And now I will make you happy the rest of your days.

שיכעלעך 
געזונגען פֿון מאַניע בענדער
פֿון רות רובין-אַרכיוו, ייִוואָ

.אין דרויסן איז פֿינצטער, אין דרויסן איז נאַס”
.איך האָב ניט קיין שיכעלעך צו גיין אויף דער גאַס
,פּאַפּאַ, איך בעט דיך, אַזוי פֿיל מאָל
קויף זשע מיר שוין, קויף זשע מיר שוין
.שיכעלעך אַ פּאָר
קויף זשע מיר שוין, קויף זשע מיר שוין
“.שיכעלעך אַ פּאָר

.ס’איז אַוועק געגאַנגען אַ לאַנגע צײַט
.דאָס קינד איז געוואָרן אַ גרויסער אַדוואָקאַט
.ער זיצט מיט זײַן מיידל, זיי שפּילן ביידע פּיִאַן
.די מיידל זאָגט זי וויל זײַן כּלה זײַן
פּאַפּאַ, געדענסטו מיט אַזוי פֿיל יאָר צוריק”
?איך האָב דיר געבעטן שיִכעלעך אַ פּאָר
“און איצט מאַך איך דיר גליקלעך אויף אַלע דײַנע יאָר

Di yidishe bine, ed. J. Katzenelenbogen, NY (1897):

American Yiddish Penny Songs edited by Jane Peppler, 2015: