Archive for death

“Oy sheyn bin ikh a mol gevezn” Performed by Leah (Lillian) Kolko

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2019 by yiddishsong

Oy sheyn bin ikh a mol gevezn / O, I Was Once Beautiful
Sung by Leah (Lillian) Kolko, recorded in Camp Boiberik, Rhinebeck, NY by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, 1974

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Leah Kolko remembers learning this song when active in the youth branch of the Poale-Zion organization in Paterson, New Jersey in the the early 1920s. The recording here was made at Camp Boiberik in 1974 by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman.

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Image by Tsirl Waletzky

The rhyme “trovern” [instead of troyern] and “movern” [instead of moyern] indicates the song has its origin in the Ukraine. but dialectically speaking, the song is inconsistent.

TRANSLITERATION

Oy sheyn bin ikh a mol gevezn.
[Oy] vi der morgn shtern hob ikh geshaynt.
oy, zint ikh hob zikh mit dir bakont,
oy, fun tog tsu tog ver ikh mer krank. 

Ikh hob gemeynt az af dayne reyd
[Oy] ken men shteln movern [moyern]
Tsum sof hostu mir mayn kop fardreyt,
az ikh hob tsu veynen un tsu trovern. 

Shpatsirn zaynen mir gegangen
ale shabes oyfn bulevar.
Oy, dayne reyd hob ikh gegloybt.
Oy, bin ikh geven a groyser nar.

Du vest zikh nokh a mol on mir dermonen,
vayl keyner hot dir nit azoy lib.
Oy, du vest forn un vest mikh zukhn,
nor ikh vel zayn shoyn fun lang in grib.

TRANSLATION

O, I was once beautiful.
O, like the morning star did I shine.
O, since I got to know you,
O, with each passing day I feel more ill. 

I thought that upon your words
I could build stone walls.
In the end you turned my head around
so that I cry and mourn. 

We used to take a walk
every Sabbath along the boulevard.
O, I believed in your words.
O, what a fool I was. 

Someday you will remember me
for no one loved you as much as I.
You will travel all over and will search me
but I will have long been in the grave.
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“Vi nemt zikh tse mir azoy fil trern?” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2019 by yiddishsong

Vi nemt zikh tse mir azoy fil trern? / How did I get so many tears?
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW), recorded by Leybl Kahn 1954, NYC

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Zwiniacze 040Zvinyetchke (Zwiniacza), Bukovina (now Ukraine),
hometown of Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Another sad love song from the 1890s Bukovina repertoire of Lifshe Schaechter-Widman. This is not the only song in which she rhymes “shpekulirn” and “krapirn”, words which reflect her Austria-Hungarian upbringing. I have yet to find other versions or verses to the song.

Thanks to David Braun for help with this week’s post.

TRANSLITERATION

Vi nemt zikh tse mir azoy fil trern?
Tsi iz den mayn kop mit vaser fil?
Ven vet mayn veynen shoyn ofhern?
Ven vet mayn veytik shvaygn shtil?

Ikh heyb nor un mit dir tse shpekulirn
ver ikh krank un mid vi der toyt.
Oy, ver se shpilt a libe, der miz ying krapirn.
Geyn avek miz ikh fin der velt.

TRANSLATION

How did I get so many tears?
Is my head full of water?
When will my weeping cease?
When will my pain be silent.

When I just start to gamble with you,
I become deadly sick and tired.
O, whoever has a love affair will croak:
I have to leave this world.
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“Der dishvasher” Performed by Harris

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2019 by yiddishsong

Der dishvasher / The Dishwasher
A song by Herman Yablokoff sung by “Harris”.
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman in the apartment of Tevye (Tobias)  un Merke (Mary) Levine, Bronx, 1983.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

This 1930s song is by Yiddish actor and singer Herman Yablokoff (1903 – 1981)  His original version can be heard here:

The song can be heard more recently at the Milken Archive of Jewish Music in 2001, sung by Cantor Robert Abelson. That web page also has extensive notes, translations and transliterations of the original version.

The singer “Harris”  (I only remember him by this name) has dropped and changed a number of lines from Yablokoff’s original song. An amazing coincidence: the song sheet I found on line and have used here as an illustration has the name “Harris” written on the front! Perhaps it was his. His performance gives one a good sense of the intended pathos, and Yablokoff, writer of the classic song Papirosn (Cigarettes), was indeed the master singer of Yiddish pathos.

TRANSLITERATION

In a restoran hob ikh gezeyn
an altn man in kitshen shteyt.
un in der shtil
zingt er mit gefil:

Oy, ikh vash mit mayne shvakhe hent.
Ikh vash un vash, fardin ikh a por sent.
Fun fri biz shpeyt far a trikn shtikl broyt.
Ikh vash un beyt af zikh aleyn dem toyt.

Kh’bin a mul geveyn mit mentshn glaykh.
Gehat a heym, geveyzn raykh.
Itst bin ikh alt.
Keyner vil mikh nit.

Oy kinder fir, gebildet[er?] ir.
Di tokhter, shnir,
shikn mir tsum zin. Der zin er zugt
“Ikh ken gurnit tin”.

Oy, ikh vash mit mayne shvakhe hent.
Ikh vash un vash, fardin ikh a por sent.
Fun fri biz shpeyt far a trikn shtikl broyt.
Ikh vash un beyt, oy, af zikh aleyn deym toyt.

TRANSLATION

In a restaurant I once saw
an old man standing in the kitchen
and quietly
he sang with feeling:

“O, I wash with my weak hands.
I wash and wash and earn a few cents.
From early to late for a dry piece of bread.
I wash and pray for my own death.”

I once was like all other people;
had a home and was wealthy.
Now I am old
No one wants me.

O, I have educated four children.
My daughter and daughter-in-law send me to my son.
My son says, ” I can do nothing”.

O, I wash with my weak hands.
I wash and wash and earn a few cents.
From early to late for a dry piece of bread.
I wash and pray, o, for my own death

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“Shteyt in tol an alte mil” Performed by M.M. Shaffir

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2019 by yiddishsong

Shteyt in tol an alte mil / An Old Mill Stands in the Valley
Words by M. M. Shaffir,  Music -“adapted from a Romanian folk melody”
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Bronx

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The poet M. M. Shaffir (1909 -1988) was born in Suchava/Suceava (in Yiddish – “Shots”), Bukovina, Austria-Hungary; today – Romania. He immigrated to Montreal in 1939 and published 18 books of poetry. He was known for his love of Jewish folklore and his expert knowledge of the Yiddish language.

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M.M. Shaffir, Screen Shot from Cindy Marshall’s Film “A Life of Song: a Portrait of Ruth Rubin”

He was a close friend of the linguist, writer and editor Mordkhe Schaechter, and visited him in the Bronx several times.  At one of these occasions in 1974, the Sholem-Aleichem Cultural Center organized an event honoring his visit and afterward he sang three songs that he had composed at the Gottesman home across the street.

In this post we look at the first of those three songs, a doina-style melody Shteyt in tul an alte mil. He included the words and music in his collection Bay der kholem multer (Montreal, 1983) which are attached.

Several lines in his performance differ from the printed poem. On top of the musical notation, Shaffir wrote “loyt a Romeynishn folksmotiv” – “adapted from a Romanian folk melody.” To compare a Romanian traditional song to Shaffir’s composition Romanian music researcher Shaun Williams suggested listening to this Romanian doina sung by Maria Tanase:

Singer and scholar Michael Alpert also suggested listening to this Romanian “epic ballad”:

In Cindy Marshall’s film “A Life of Song: A Portrait of Ruth Rubin”, Shaffir can be seen in the episode where Rubin records singers in Montreal. The photo of him in this blog is taken from that scene. The entire film can be seen at YIVO’s Ruth Rubin Legacy website.

TRANSCRIPTION

1) Shteyt in tul an alte mil.
Veyn ikh dortn in der shtil.
Shteyen dortn verbes tsvey
Veyn ikh oys mayn harts far zey.

2) Ergets vayt in kelt un shney
iz gefaln mayn Andrei.
Ergets af a vistn feld.
Hot zayn harts zikh opgeshtelt.

3)Deym boyars tsvey sheyne zin
zenen nisht avek ahin.
Nor Andrei hot men opgeshikt
hot a koyl zayn harts fartsikt.

4) Hot zayn harts zikh opgeshtelt.
Ergets oyf a vistn feld.
Ergets vayt in kelt un shney
S’iz mir vind un s’iz mir vey.

TRANSLATION

An old mill stands in the field
where I cry there quietly.
Two willows are there
and I cry my heart out for them.

Somewhere distant in cold and snow
my Andrei has fallen.
Somewhere on a barren field
his heart stopped beating.

The boyar’s two handsome sons
did not go there.
Only Andrei was sent
and a bullet devoured his heart.

His heart stopped beating
somewhere on a barren field.
Somewhere far in cold and snow,
Woe is me, how it hurts!

From Bay der kholem multer by M.M. Shaffir (Montreal, 1983) pp. 72-73:
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“S’iz shvarts in himl” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2019 by yiddishsong

S’iz shvarts in himl / The Sky is Black by Avrom Goldfaden
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman.
Recorded by Leybl Kahn, Bronx 1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman: 

This song about Rebecca in the Bible is a folklorized version of a song written by Avrom Goldfaden. It appears, text only, in his volume Dos yidele, where it is called “Rivkes toyt” (Rebecca’s Death, see scans below). Before the poem, Goldfaden gives this introduction:

In the midrash it says: When Rebecca died, they had to bury her at night so that Esau would not see and follow her to the burial. For if he did so, she would be cursed for having such a son. Jacob had run away to Horon and Isaac was too old. So no one accompanied her at her funeral. 

rebeccacoro“Rebecca at the Well”, painting by Corot, 1839

The midrash addresses the question – why was Rebecca’s death not mentioned in the Torah?

Goldfaden was a master of creating songs that resonated with Yiddish folklore. Though this song is about Biblical figures, it resembles a typical Yiddish orphan song. The second line “S’iz a pakhed af der gas aroystsugeyn” (It is a fright to go out in the street) is the exact same as the second line in the ballad “Fintser glitshik shpeyt ba der nakht“, the first song ever presented on Yiddish Song of the Week. And the last line “Elnt blaybsti du vi a shteyn” (Alone you remain like a stone) is found in other Yiddish orphan songs. In this case, biblical Jacob is the orphan. LSW, in her slow, emotional and mournful style, sings this song about Biblical characters as if it reflected a contemporary, local tragedy.

Two textual changes worth noting:

1) Instead of Goldfaden’s “A mes, a mes” א מת, א מת  (A corpse, a corpse), Lifshe sings “emes, emes” (true, true) אמת אמת. which just by combining the two words into one word, changes the meaning completely. This reminds us of the Golem legend in which “emes” אמת [truth] was written on the Golem’s forehead, but when he was no longer needed, the rabbi wiped off the first letter, the alef א and the Golem became dead מת

2) LSW sings “miter Rukhl” (mother Rachel) instead of “miter Rivke” (mother Rebecca). This can be explained, I believe, by the fact that the appellation “muter/miter Rukhl” is far more common than “muter Rivke”. I  did a Google Search in Yiddish to compare both and “muter Rukhl” won 453 – 65. The Yiddish folksinger would have found the phrase “muter Rivke” strange to the ear. In addition, the matriarch Rachel also had an unusual burial: she was buried far from home, on the road to Efrat, and therefore all alone, as Rebecca.

In the papers of the YIVO Ethnographic Commission there is a version of the song collected in the 1920s or 1930s, singer, collector and town unknown. There too the singer changed “a mes” to “emes” but sang Rivke not Rukhl.

TRANSLITERATION

S’iz shvarts in himl me zeyt nit kayn shtern.
S’iz a pakhid af der gas aroystsugeyn.
Shvartse volkn gisn heyse trern
un der vint, er bluzt mit eyn geveyn.

Emes, emes, ersht nisht lang geshtorbn.
Etlekhe mentshn geyen trit ba trit.
Me trugt deym toytn, ersht a frishn korbn:
indzer miter Rukhl, ver ken zi nit?

Yankl iz dekh fin der heym antlofn.
Er shluft dekh dort af deym altn shteyn.
Shtey of di yusem! Di host dekh shoyn keyn mame nisht.
Elnt blabsti du vi a shteyn.

TRANSLATION

The sky is black, no stars can be seen.
It’s a fright to go out in the street.
Black clouds gush hot tears
and the wind blows with a great cry.

True, true she died not long ago.
Several people walked step by step.
They carry the deceased, a fresh sacrifice:
our mother Rukhl, who doesn’t know her?

Jacob had run away from home.
He sleeps on that old rock.
Wake up you orphan! You no longer have a mother.
You remain alone like a stone.

siz shvarts 1siz shvarts 2

From Goldfadn’s Dos yidele, 1891:

goldfadn1
goldfadn2
goldfadn3
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goldfadn5

“Farmutshet in fintserer tfise” Performed by Leo Summergrad

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2018 by yiddishsong

Farmutshet in fintserer tfise / Exhausted In a Dark Jail
Sung by Leo Summergrad, recorded by Summergrad in 1959

Commentary by Itizk Gottesman

Upon hearing a previous post Es hot geshneyet un geregnt sung by Esther Gold, Yiddish singer, song lover and collector Leo Summergrad wrote to say that the melody is similar not only to In kampf by David Edelshtadt but also to the song Farmutshet in fintserer tfise. I asked him to send his recording of the song to the Yiddish Song of the Week.

RussianPrison

Russian Prison, circa 1890

Farmutshet in fintserer tfise is a Yiddish translation of a popular Russian poem Замучен тяжелой неволей by Gregori Machtet (1852 – 1901). Here is a choral version of the original Russian song:

In Albert Bitter’s song collection Zing-A-Lid (NY, 1940, 1941) he has printed the words and melody and noted that it is a translation from Russian. In a Yiddish song collection of the 1890s Lieder Magazin (NYC)  it is already noted that the source of the music for Edelshtadt’s In kamf is the Russian song.

The Yiddish translator is “A. Kovner” which I assume to be a pseudonym.  In the on-line Ruth Rubin Legacy: Archive of Yiddish Folksongs at YIVO,  Naomi Feder sings the first two verses of Farmutshet in fintserer tfise. I could not find any studio recording of the song.

Leo Summergrad writes about this recording:

I probably learned the song in Mitl Shul, which was also before the war.  I don’t recall the when and how, but we put on plays honoring Naphtali Botwin and Hirsh Leckert.  Perhaps it was part of the plays.

As to the recordings:  I’ve had a love affair with Yiddish music since I was a very young child.  My mother and father both sang beautifully and did so all the time.  My uncle was the lead tenor in the Oscar Julius quartet.  A big regret is that I never recorded my parents when I had the opportunity.

In 1959 I bought a quality reel to reel tape recorder, which I still have, for the sole purpose of memorializing some of the songs I love.  Over a period of months, I did so.  On the recording I say, “These are a few of my favorites”.  I then record two hours of songs.  As technology improved, I converted the reels to cassettes and later to CDs.  פארמוטשעט אין פינסטערע טוויסעס appears on volume 1, under “Songs of Struggle”.

About the same time, I started collecting Yiddish recordings and song books.  I currently have about 700 recordings from 27 different countries and more than 60 books.  Information about the recordings and songs, of which there are about 2300, are in data bases that I developed.

Over the years, I have made about a dozen more recordings, many of which were of programs that a friend and I put on at various locations over a number of years.

Thanks this week to Leo Summergrad for sending us his stirring recording. 

TRANSCRIPTION

Farmutshet in fintserer tfise,
in kamf far der arbeter-makht.
Bagegnt dem toyt hostu heldish,
bist erlekh gefaln in shlakht.

Neyn, sine hot bloyz undz nor gevorgn,
getribn in shlakht hot undz mut.
Baym keyver mir hobn geshvoyrn
batsoln dem faynt far dayn blut.

Far undz iz nor eyn veg nor dayner,
vi du zayn in tfise farshmakht.
A lebn nor shtraykn nor kemfn,
un faln vi du far der zakh.

TRANSLATION

Exhausted in a dark prison,
in struggle for the workers’ power,
you met your death like a hero
and died honestly.

No, hatred has only strangled us.
Our courage drove us into battle.
At the grave we swore
to make the enemy pay for your blood.

For us there is only one way – yours,
As you, to be suffering in prison.
A life of only strikes and struggles,
and to die as you for the cause.
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“In Odes af a shteyn” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2018 by yiddishsong

In Odes af a shteyn / In Odessa on a Stone
A song about the 1905 Kiev Pogrom
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman
Recorded in 1960s Bronx by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

In Odes af a shteyn is a variant of the previously posted pogrom ballad In Kiever gas. Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) tells us in her spoken introduction to this song that she learned it from a survivor of the Kiev pogrom of 1905 (October 31 – November 2, 1905) who came to her Bukovina town, Zvinyetchke. Lifshe was then 12 years old.

So the earlier version, In Kiever gas, which was sung soon after the 1881 Kiev pogrom, was reused for the second Kiev pogrom which took place almost 25 years later.

kiev-1905-pogrom-1

1905 Kiev Pogrom

In Ruth Rubin’s archive a “Mr. Auslander” sings In Ades af der gas, a combination of the two versions:

And here is another performance of the song by LSW from her 1954 recording session with Leybl Kahn. (The first few seconds have been cut off). Some of the lyrics are different in that earlier recording:

The featured LSW version that we have transcribed (the sound recording presented at the top of this posting) is from the 1960s and recorded by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman in the Bronx. Though this version is shorter than Braginski’s, it also contains, as do almost all the versions, the rhyme katsapes (derogatory term for Russians) and lapes and the appeal to God in the last verse “to take her away from this world.”

Thanks to Lorin Sklamberg and YIVO Sound Archives for help with this week’s blog post.

TRANSCRIPTION

SPOKEN by LSW: Nokh di Kiever pogromen inem yare [yor] finef, fir, finef,  zenen gekimen tsi loyfn fin Kiev tsi indz mentshn, hot eyner mikh oysgelernt dus lidl.

In Odes af a shteyn, zitst a meydele aleyn.
Zi zitst in zi veynt.
Zi zitst in zi veynt, ir harts iz farshteynt.
A neduve bay yeydn zi beyt.

Di Kiever katsapes mit zeyere lapes
hobn getin mayn faters hoyz tsebrekhn.
Dus hoyz tsebrokhn, deym tatn geshtokhn.
Di mame iz far shrek imgekimen.

Vi groys iz mayn shand oystsushtrekn di hant
un tsu beytn bay laytn gelt, un tsi beytn bay laytn gelt.
Oy, Got derbarem, shtrek oys dayn arem.
un nem mekh shoyn tsi fin der velt.

TRANSLATION

In Odessa on a rock, sits a girl alone.
She sits and she weeps.
She sits and weeps, her heart has turned to stone.
For alms from everyone she begs.

The Kiev “lousy Russians” and their paws,
Did destroy my father’s house.
The house destroyed, my father stabbed.
My mother died of fright.

How great is my shame to hold out my hand
and to beg for money from people,
and to beg for money from people.
O, God have mercy, and stretch out your arm,
and take me away from this world.  

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