All of the previous recordings in this blog of the Bukovina singer Lifshe Schaechter-Widman [LSW] are from the 1954 recordings done by Leybl Kahn. But her daughter Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman recorded a few songs from her in the 1960s and early 1970s. This lullaby was recorded a few months before LSW died in 1973.
Lifshe Schaechter-Widman with her brother Luzer Gottesman. NYC ca. 1912
As usual, the transcription in English letters more accurately reflects her dialect than does the Yiddish transcription in the Yiddish alphabet in which we use standard Yiddish.
Spoken introduction by LSW: “Ikh fleyg dus zingen ven ikh bin nokh geveyn a kind mistame, finef, finef un zekhtsik yur tsurik. In dernokh hob eykh dus gezingen mane kinder. Kh’ob es gezingen Beyltsyen; Kh’ob es gezingen Mordkhen. Un hant vilt zikh es zingen…efsher veln mane eyniklekh es amul veln kenen.”
Shluf mayn feygele makh tsi dayn eygele.
Shluf mayn kroyndele, di bist a parshoyndele,
Shluf zhe, shluf lyu-lyu
Az di vest oyfshteyn fin deym zisn shluf
veln mir beyde geyn pasn di shuf.
Shluf zhe, shluf lyu-lyu
Oyf der khasene af daner, veln file mener
Mir veln geyn oyf di beler, tantsn in di zele*
Shluf zhe, shluf lyu-lyu.
*(German: säle) the usual Yiddish plural of “zal” – a large room, ballroom would be “zaln”. LSW uses the more Germanic form, perhaps the local Yiddish Bukovina form, to rhyme.
LSW spoken introduction:
“I used to sing this when I was still a child, probably about 65 years ago. Then I sang it for my children. I sang it for Beyltsye. I sang it for Mordkhe. And today I feel like singing it…perhaps my grandchildren will want to know it.”
Sleep my little bird, close your eye.
Sleep my little crown, you are someone special.
So sleep, sleep lyu-lyu
When you wake up from your sweet sleep
We will both go to tend to the sheep
So sleep, sleep lyu-lyu
At your wedding many men will
dance, my dear son.
We will to the balls and dance in the halls
So sleep, sleep -lyu-lyu
Ver es vil kayn tate-mame folgn (Whoever Does Not Listen to Their Parents) is a lyric love song performed by Lifshe Schaechter Widman (LSW) for this recording by Leybl Kahn, made in the Bronx in 1954. So far, I can find no other versions of the whole song in printed collections.
It seems LSW remembered the final fourth verse a little later so the song is presented on two audio files – the first three verses are on one audio file and the final verse on a second audio file. The song is unusual in that the melody changes for just the last verse.
As usual on this blog, the transliteration in the English alphabet reflects more accurately the singer’s dialect than the transcription in Yiddish that follows, which is done in standard Yiddish.
Ver es vil kayn tate-mame folgn.
Deym kimt dekh oys azoy tsi geyn.
Mayn mame hot mir geheysn shlufn geyn leygn.
Hob ekh getin in drosn shteyn.
Zenen derkhgegangen tsvey sheyne yingelekh.
In ekh bin mir geshtanen azoy betribt.
Az s’iz eynem bashert tsuris tsi ladn.
Hob ekh mekh in eynem farlibt.
Bay mayn mamen bin ekh eyn un eyntsik kind
Un mayn mame hot mekh zeyer lib.
Zeyt zhet mir tsi poyln bay mayn mame
Zi zol im lozn arayn in shtib.
From second file – final verse.
Di mame zogt shoyn yo.
Ober mayn tate zogt dekh neyn.
Zeyt zhet mir tsi poyln bay mayn tatn
Er zol meygn in shtib arayngeyn.
Whoever does not listen to their parents –
That is how it goes.
My mother told me to go to sleep
but I went outside to stand.
Then two handsome boys went by,
and i was standing there so sullenly.
If it’s your fortune to have troubles –
I fell in love with one of them.
I am my mother’s one and only child,
and my mother loves me very much.
So please help me convince my mother
to let him into the house.
My mother says “yes”.
But my father says “no”.
So please help me convince my father,
he should allow him to come into the house.
Perhaps because of an advertisement in the Kolomey [Kolomyia, Kolomea – Eastern Galicia, today Ukraine] newspaper, young women came to the city and became street walkers. Any other interpretations of the first line of this song, which Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) says was created during the first world war, would be welcome. This recording of Lifshe was made by Leybl Kahn in 1954 in New York.
As part of YIVO’s I. L. Cahan Folklore Club Leybl Kahn recorded approximately 90 Yiddish songs from LSW in NY in 1954. This photo of Kahn is from the 1980s
Klezmer music scholar Prof. Martin Schwartz (Berkeley) remembers his mother from Brisk de Lite (Brest Litovsk, now in Belarus) singing this song, but about a “Bialistoker tsaytung” (newspaper from Bialystok) He also pointed out that the same melody, more or less, can be heard in the klezmer repertoire in Harry Kandel’s Odessa Bulgar.
Note: in the first verse LSW sings mistakenly “Arop fun dem shlekhtn veg iz zi” which means – “She went off the bad/crooked path”; the opposite of what she intended. I believe she meant to sing “Arop funem glaykhn veg iz zi” – “She went off the good/straight path”.
LSW: A pur lider vos me hot gezingen in krig.
LK: In der ershter velt-milkhome.
LSW: In der ershter velt-milkhume
LK: Gut, dos ershte lid…
Di kolomeyer tsaytung hot gebrakht a vabele
shpeyt bay nakht.
Gegangen iz zi
fun shpeyt biz fri
Arup fun dem shlekhtn [glaykhn] veyg iz zi.
Meydlekh in der ershter klas
geyen arim in der (h)intershter gas.
Hefker iz di velt atsind.
Tsi iz dus fayn? Tsi iz dus sheyn?
Biz shpeyt ba nakht arimtsigeyn?
Es iz nisht fayn; es iz nisht sheyn.
Dus iberike shtoyst zikh un aleyn.
LSW: A few songs that were sung in wartime.
LK: In the first world war.
LSW: In the first world war.
LK: the first song…
The Kolomey newspaper brought a young woman
late at night.
She walked from late to early morning
Off the straight path she went.
[LSW sings mistakenly “off the evil path she went”]
First class girls wander around in the back alleys.
The world is topsy-turvey now.
Is this fine? Is this nice?
To walk around till late at night?
It is not fine; it is not nice.
You can imagine the rest yourself.
A short ballad or a fragment? In just one verse it tells quite a story and I rather think it is a dramatic one verse song in classic ballad form (first a description of the scene, then a dialogue) about a problem we usually think of as a Jewish immigrant’s dilemma. It clearly was an issue in the old country as well. This recording of Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, (b. Zvinyetchke, Bukovina, 1893 – d. New York, 1973) was recorded by Leybl Kahn in the Bronx in 1954.
Erev yoym-kiper af der nakht iz geshtanen a gevelb afgemakht. Hot men gefregt vus tisti rushe Im yon-kiper aza groyse zind? S’i nishkushe, s’i nishkushe Ikh darf farnern vayb un kind.
Yom Kippur evening a store stood open. So they asked – “What are you doing wicked one? Such a sin on Yom Kippur!” “It’s not so bad, not so bad – I have a wife and child I must feed!’
Thanks to Henry Carrey for this fascinating recording of his mother Leah Post Carrey (1908 – 2005), a well known Yiddish singer and actress, singing a 15 verse murder/underworld ballad from Zhitomir entitled “A lid vegn Bentsi der geshtokhener” (“A Song about Bentsi who was Stabbed”). Frahdl learned this song right after the actual event and Leah says in her Yiddish comments after the song that her mother attended the trial and saw the bloody knife.
What follows is 1) information on the singer Leah Carrey, followed by 2) notes on Leah’s mother Frahdl, from whom Leah learned this song, and finally 3) a few comments on the song itself.
1) Obituary sent by Henry Carrey:
Leah Carrey (Leyke Post), 97, Yiddish Radio Star
Leah Carrey, singer, actress and star of Yiddish radio in Boston passed away last week in New York. Known to her fans by her maiden name of Leyke Post, Leah was born in Zhitomir, Ukraine into a family that loved to entertain. She and her mother Frahdl joined her father Shloyme in the West End of Boston when she was 5 years old.
Her stage debut was as a boy singing “Heyse Bapkelekh” in a touring Goldfaden operetta starring Michal Michalesko. On that occasion, she suffered her first and only bout of stage fright. She performed in shows at the Grand Old Opera House on Dover Street, at the Shawmut Theater and the Franklin Park Theater, working with some of the greatest stars of the Yiddish stage. Later, she toured all over New England and in the Catskills, performing Yiddish folk, art and theater songs.
Photograph of Leah Post Carrey courtesy of Henry Carrey
She sang on Boston radio for over 25 years on stations WCOP, the Mutual and Yankee networks. She was a regular on “The Kibitzer” with Ben Gailing and “Der Freylekher Kaptsn“. She also concertized for many Jewish organizations – most frequently at the Workmen’s Circle camp in Framingham and Center.
In 1933, she married Al Carrey and had two sons: David, who eventually worked in the New York Yiddish theater and Henry. She joined her son in New York in 1978 singing on WEVD, at Circle Lodge and off-Broadway in “The Roumanian Wedding”. After her son David’s untimely death, she was cheered up by the chance to play Grandma in Woody Allen’s film “Radio Days”. In the early ‘90’s, she impressed her audiences at “Klezkamp”.
She is survived by her son Henry of Manhattan and her sister Rose Andelman of Nyack, New York .
2) About his grandmother, Frahdl Post, aka Fannie Post, Henry Carrey writes:
My bobie was born in Zhitomir, Ukraine in 1881 and died at the Workmen’s Circle Home for the Aged in the Bronx, New York in 1976. She grew up in a lower-middle class home, one of four sisters and two brothers. Her father Dovid-Hersh Herman had a shop where grain was sold. His wife, Rivke Kolofsky worked in the shop.
As young girl, she always liked to sing and dance (her father was said to be a part-time lay khazn [cantor] with a pleasant voice.) She and her brother, Pinye, teamed up to sing and dance at local simkhes (family celebrations). As she was never taught to read and write, she used to learn everything by heart. She once said that she learned her vast repertoire of many-versed songs by going to a store with friends every day, where newly written songs would be purchased and then shared by the girls (at least one of whom had to be able to read music). She also used stand in the street outside the local jail and learn revolutionary songs from the prisoners who could be heard through the windows. Although she remembered attending revolutionary meetings in the woods, she was not an activist. She also took part in occasional amateur theatricals near her home.
One day she went to a fortune-teller, who told her that her future husband was waiting at home for her. When she got home, she saw my grandfather Shloyme, who had been boarding with her aunt. Even though she was supposed to be the prettiest of the girls, she was relatively late in getting married for a girl at that time. In 1907, they married and within a year, her husband Shloyme was off to America to seek his fortune. He may not have known that his wife was pregnant when he left. I don’t know if he left for any other reasons, but I do know that there were pogroms in Zhitomir in 1905 and 1907.
In April 1913, (from Halifax) they left for Boston, where my grandfather had settled. Frahdl had two more children Rose and Hymie. My grandfather worked as a welder and a blacksmith and eventually owned two small apartment building where he was the landlord and super. At one point, they left their Jewish neighborhood of the West End of Boston to move to Arlington so that my grandfather could open a tire store with a friend for Model T’s.
Being one of four Jewish families in Arlington, my mother and siblings were influenced by the gentile kids around them. My aunt and uncle once brought a “Chanukah Bush” home and put up stockings on the mantel. My grandmother threw the tree out and filled the stockings with coal and onions from “Sente Closet“. My mother, who even at a young age, was a singer, had been secretly singing with the Methodist choir. One day, the minister came to the door to ask my grandmother’s permission to allow my mother to sing on Christmas Eve. That was the last straw for my grandmother and they moved back to the West End.
I was always amazed that my grandmother managed to bring up three children in Boston without ever learning to read or write. She could recognize numbers and sign her name, but never went to night school as her sisters had done. She always regretted that.
My grandmother always sang around the house both the old Yiddish and Ukrainian folksongs she had learned in Zhitomir and the new Yiddish theater songs she heard from other people or later on the radio and on recordings.
She never stopped singing and dancing even in the old age home. I remember even in the 1960’s she would delight people with her Yinglish version of “How much is that doggy in the window?” or her renditions of “Enjoy Yourself (It’s later than you think)” in Yiddish and English and “Der Galitzianer Cabalyerl“ in Yiddish.
3) Comments on song “Bentsi der geshtokhener” by Itzik Gottesman:
This song is among the more brutal and bloodier Yiddish ballads even when compared to the songs in Shmuel Lehman’s classic collection, “Ganovim lider” (“Thieves’ Songs”), published in Warsaw in 1928.
Interesting how even in such a prime example of the Jewish underworld, elements of the traditional Jewish world work themselves into the story – his pal Dovid Perltsvayg and his old father say Kaddish (the memorial prayer); Bentsi wants to say vide, his final confession.
Elements of traditional Yiddish ballads also are to found, such as verses that begin with “Azoy….” – “Azoy vi di muter hot dos derhet” for example is usually part of the widespread “12 a zeyger ballad” (see the recording by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman on the cassette “Az di furst avek”).
I will not comment on the grammatical and lexical issues, which are many, and can be addressed by the listeners of the Yiddish Song of the Week blog. Please point out any mistakes, of course, or disagreements with my translation.
A naye lid hob ikh aroysgegebn,
vos ikh aleyn vel aykh zingen.
Di lid iz fun Bentsi dem(!) geshtokhener;
Di gantse velt tut mit im klingen.
A new song did I produce
that I will sing for you myself.
This song about Bentsi the stabbed one,
The whole world is talking about him.
A shayke gite-briderlekh zenen zikh in zhitomir geven,
un zey hobn zikh shtendik farhaltn gut,
un far aza mints narishkeyt,
geyt men a gutn-bruder fargisn blut.
A gang of “buddies” (slang for thugs) were in Zhitomir
and they always got along fine.
And for some trifle coins,
they spilled the blood of their buddy.
Azoy vi Bentsi iz nor aheymgekumen,
hot er nit gevust vos mit im ken zayn.
Er hot zikh nor avekgeleygt shlofn –
azoy hot men im gegibn dem meser in der zayt arayn.
As soon as Bentsi came home,
he didn‘t know what would happen to him.
He lay down to sleep
and they stabbed him with the knife in his side.
Azoy vi Bentsi hot nor dem meser derfilt,
hot er zikh oyfgekhapt mit a groys geshrey.
Er hot ongehoybn shrayen “Brengt mir a dokter.
Oy, zol men mir mayn blut faromeven”.
As soon as Bentsi felt the knife,
he woke up with a great yell.
He began to scream “bring me a doctor
Let them wipe up my blood.”
Keyn sakh arbet hobn zey bay im nisht gehat,
vayl zey zene geven in firn.
Zayne koyles zenen gegangen bizn zibetn himl,
zey hobn im nisht gevolt tsuhern.
They didn’t have much work to do
because there were four.
His screams reached the seventh heaven,
but they ignored him.
Dem ershtn meser hot im zayn guter-brider arayngerikt,
un er hot im bay im oysgedreyt.
“Ikh zog dir a blat loshn, Bentsi, ikh hob dir shoyn gefetst.
Itst veln mir shoyn beyde zayn tsesheydt.”
The first knife was plunged into him by his buddy,
and he turned it around in him.
I will tell you in underworld lingo – I knocked you off,
Now we will go our separate ways.
File mentshn hobn in Bentsis toyt a negeye gehat.
Zey hobn bay im dos lebn genumen.
Mir zeen dokh aroys, s’iz shoyn a farfalene zakh,
un me tor nit fregn far vos s’iz him gekumen.
Many people had a part(?) in Bentsyes death.
They took away his life.
We therefore see, that it’s all over,
but no one can ask why he deserved it.
Azoy vi er hot im dem meser arayngerikt,
zayne tsores hot Bentsi nit gekent farnemen.
“Ikh zog dir Bentsi, ikh shnayd fun dir shtiker fleysh,
Mir veln zikh bodn in dayn blut vi vayt mir veln kenen.”
As soon as he stabbed him with the knife,
Bentsi could not stand his pains.
“I tell you Bentsi, I am cutting pieces of flesh from you.
We will bathe in your blood, as much as we can.‟
“Hert nor oys mayne gute-briderlekh,
Ot hert vos ikh vel aykh zogn.
Oy, shikt mir rufn mayn tayere mame,
oy, lomir khotshk (b)vide zogn.”
Listen my good buddies,
listen to what I will tell you.
O, send for my dear mother,
O, let me say my final confession of sins.
Azoy vi di muter hot dos nor derhert,
iz zi arayngefaln mit a groys geveyn.
“Oy, nite veyn mayn tayere mame,
Got veyst tsi du vest mir morgn zen.”
As soon as his mother heard this,
she ran in with a great moan.
“Don‘t you cry my dear mother,
God only knows if you’ll see me tomorrow‟.
Nokh zayn shtekh hot er nokh zibn teg gelebt;
zayne tsores hot er nit gekent aribertrogn.
Far zayn toyt hot er a gutn-brider Dovid Perltsvayg ongezogt,
Az kadish zol er nokh im zogn.
After the stabbing he lived another seven days.
His pains he could not endure.
Before he died, he told his buddy Dovid Perltsvayg,
he should say Kaddish for him.
Dovid hot bay him der hant genumen,
er zol zikh zayn krivde onnemen.
“Ikh zog dir Bentsi, vi vayt ikh vel kenen,
vet ikh zen far dir dayn blut opnemen.”
Dovid took him by the hand,
and asked to take up his cause.
“I tell you Bentsi, that as much as I am able
I will avenge your blood.‟
Oy, ver s’iz nit bay dem nisoyen nisht geven,
oy, darf men veynen un klogn.
Aza ayzernem Bentsi leygt men in dr’erd arayn.
un der alter foter darf kadish zogn.
Whoever was at this temptation (?),
should weep and mourn.
Such an iron-man like Bentsi is put in the ground
and his old father must say Kaddish.
Dem ershtn gitn-brider hot men bald gekhapt,
un me hot im in mokem arestirt;
keyn vapros bay him gornit opgenumen,
me hot im bald in kitsh aropgefirt.
The first buddy was caught soon after
and they arrested him in the neighborhood (?)
The didn‘t take any questions from him,
and they put him straight away in the “can” (jail)
Di iberike dray hot men ongehoybn sliedeven,
un me hot bald gevust vu zey zaynen.
Tsum Barditshever brik iz men bay nakht geforn,
un fun di dlizones hot men zey aropgenumen.
About the other three they started to ask questions
and they soon found out where they were.
To the Berdichever bridge they went at night
And from the carriages they took them off.
At conclusion of song, this is spoken by the singer: “My mother remembers how dangerous it was when they led the murderer in chains and how one of them yelled to Dovid Perltsvayg – ‘unless I don’t come back if I do come back we will get back at you’. My mother told me that she remembered how the knife was laying on the table with blood. Bentsi, as I understood it, was a handsome youth, and girls worked for him. The girls were crazy for him. The other three, it seems, were jealous of him. I know, that’s what my mother told me.
The Yiddish Song of the Week is glad to be back after a brief hiatus caused by a hurricane-related telecommunications breakdown.
“Dos Daytshl” (“The German Guy”) as sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman [LSW] (see previous posts for her biography) is linguistically the most complicated song yet posted.
The comic ballad is international and found in many languages and is known in the Child canon as “Our Goodman” (#274). The texts have remained remarkably similar through time and languages. My folklore professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Kenneth Goldstein, played us a field recording he had made of African-American kids in West Philadelphia singing a rap version of this ballad and the words were almost the exact ones as the Yiddish lyrics LSW sings.
In The Folks Songs of Ashkenaz (pp. 139 – 142) edited by Philip V. Bohlman and Otto Holzapfel (2001), the editors make an interesting comparison of a Yiddish version found in the Ginsburg-Marek collection to a German version collected in German colonies in southern Russia. Unfortunately, they only compare the texts, though several Yiddish versions with melodies have been printed (for example, one melody of a Yiddish version exists in Yidisher folklor, YIVO 1938). Their brief history of the ballad indicates that the German versions of the song came from a Scottish variant in late 19th century, and after it was published in a German almanac in 1790 it circulated much more widely.
There are many printed Yiddish versions of the song, most recently in Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive (p. 30-31) edited by Chana Mlotek and Mark Slobin. Their introduction refers to other printed Yiddish versions. On the Yiddish ballad in comparison to other international versions read Chana Mlotek’s “International Motifs in the Yiddish Ballad” in For Max Weinriech on his Seventieth Birthday. The Yiddish ballad was still popular into the 1930s in Eastern Europe.
Since LSW comes from the Bukovina, where Jews were fluent in Yiddish and German, the German element in the song has to be analyzed not just as Germanisms in a Yiddish text, but as to what these German words evoke when sung by a Yiddish folksinger who is performing a comic song making fun of a German. Does the singing of “Eyns, tsvey, drey” and not “dray” which would be the correct form in both Yiddish and German, indicate a funny hypercorrection of a German based word in Yiddish?
Of course, it’s not just any German being made fun of here, but a German peasant or farmer. The Germanisms also imply that such a song about a cuckold would “never” be sung about a Jewish husband and wife. Since LSW usually sings slow mournful songs it’s refreshing to hear her sing a comic song with such gusto and drama.
Di apikorsim (“The Heretics”) was the first song that Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) sang for collector Leybl Kahn in NYC in 1954. He recorded approximately 100 songs sung by LSW over the next few weeks or months. LSW is my grandmother and the child one hears in the background is my then 4-year old sister Taube. At one point during her singing, she gets up and runs after her. The spoken dialogue between LSW and Kahn is transcribed in the Yiddish text.
In Shloyme Prizament’s book Di broder zinger (Buenos-Aires, 1960), he has a version of this song with the music on pages 110-112. He writes that he wrote the words and music, and states that Pepi Litman recorded it. There is indeed a recording of Pepi Litman performing the song. This book can now be read and downloaded at the Yiddish Book Center website.
Shloyme Prizament was born in 1889 in Hibinev, Galicia and died in Buenos-Aires in 1973; his biography appears in the third volume of the “Leksikon fun yidishn teater”, pages 1873- 1876. Prizament was an amazingly prolific composer, songwriter, but I am not convinced that he wrote the song that LSW performs. The more likely scenario, in my opinion, is that he based his song on the popular current version that LSW sings.
The song itself, a maskilic song mocking the Hasidim but sung in the voice of true believers, was a common genre. However, in Apikorsim the humor is quite vulgar. In songs such as “Kum aher du filosof” the irony is much more subtle. Ruth Rubin’s book Voices of a People has a nice section on maskilic songs (chapter 10). Rubin also prints Velvl Zbarzher’s song “Moshiakh’s tsaytn” (pp. 255 – 257) which is on the same theme as di apikorsim.
A couple of comments on the words and rhymes of Apikorsim: “Daytshn” literally means “Germans”, but in the Yiddish of the 19th century, early 20th century, it referred to the Maskilim, the Jews who were assimilating and dressing like Germans – that is, as modern Europeans.
You will also hear that in the refrain which begins “Folgts daytshn…” there is no rhyme for gikh. LSW sings sheyn. The implied rhyme should be rikh – the devil, and my mother remembers LSW singing it vet ir oyszen vi a layt or oyszen vi a rikh so i put those options in brackets. The listener would have understood the implied rhyme gikh and rikh.
Di apikorsim, di voyle-yingen es vet in zey ale trasken lingen zey veln ale tsepiket vern ven zey veln shoyfer-shel-moshiakh derhern.
The heretics, those loose fellows, Their lungs will all rattle. They will burst apart, when they hear the shofar of the messiah.
Far kol-rom vet vern gehert der rebe vet lernen toyre. Di apikorsim veln faln tsu dr’erd far shrek un far moyre.
Loudly for all, it will be heard the rebbe will teach Torah. the heretics will fall to the ground, out of fear and alarm.
Folgts datshn mekh, un verts khasidemlekh gikh. Tits un a yeyder yidishe kleyder vet ir oyszen sheyn [vi a layt] [vi a rikh]/
Listen to me Germans [assimilated Jews] and become Hasidim quickly. Each of you dress in Jewish clothes, so you will appear – beautiful [vi a layt – presentable] [vi a rikh – like a demon]