Archive for trouble

Harry Boens & Nathan Hollandar’s Song “Di Shpanishe kholere” Performed by Cantor Sam Weiss

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2020 by yiddishsong

Di Shpanishe Kholere / The Spanish Contagion
Lyrics by Harry Boens (Bennett), Music by Nathan Hollandar.
Performance by Cantor Sam Weiss.

Commentary by Cantor Sam Weiss

Around 15 years ago my friend Michael Bennett discovered his grandfather’s name (see Michael Bennett’s post about his grandfather, Harry Boens / Bennett) listed as lyricist on a piece of Yiddish sheet music about the 1918 Spanish flu. As there were no extant recordings or performances of the song, in 2010 he emailed me to see if I could arrange to get it recorded. I glanced at the lyrics and was quickly captivated by their colloquial directness and interesting vocabulary. In short order I printed out the file, placed the sheets on my electronic keyboard, ran through the song, and emailed the mp3 to Michael.

Image courtesy of Michael Bennett; all rights reserved.

The song remained our private little adventure until COVID-19 reared its head and Michael reached out to me again: “…Maybe it’s an appropriate time to release to the public your rendition of my grandfather’s lament.” I hesitated, not really thinking of that quick take as a “performance, “and his idea remained dormant. Right before the High Holidays, however, it occurred to me that the Yiddish Song of the Week website would be an appropriate vehicle for sharing this gem, and Itzik Gottesman agreed to host it along with Michael’s back story on his grandfather.

Cantor Sam Weiss by Robert Kalfus

As the song is equal parts humor and pathos, I adopted a theatrical singing style along with the “stage Yiddish” dialect suggested by the printed notation. The initial sound in the Yiddish word for “Spanish” is clearly intended to be pronounced “S” rather than “Sh,” being spelled here with a samekh in place of the standard shin, and that is how I sang it.

In the case of the word for “heart” I vacillated between the standard pronunciation harts and the printed word hertz. In these two cases the transcription reflects standard Yiddish spellings rather than the pronunciations heard on the recording; the remaining words are transcribed as sung. Although the notation indicates a repeat of the final phrase in the verses, these repeats were skipped in verses 3-6.

I was struck by an interesting word that occurs three times, neveyre, which I have translated as “plague.” Strictly speaking neveyre is simply the colloquial version of aveyre, meaning “sin” (the “n” resulting from conflating the two words an aveyre), but in this context neveyre implies a divine punishment that may have come about as a result of our sins. Although I have yet to find this particular meaning in any Yiddish dictionary or thesaurus, the usage is amply supported by Jewish lore from the Ten Plagues onwards. The song itself, moreover, expresses a plea for God’s compassion (to reverse the punishment, as it were) as well as the darkly comical idea of the Spanish flu as Woodrow Wilson’s vengeance for Germany’s role in World War I.

The title word kholere is especially noteworthy. Unlike the English word “cholera,” it has a much broader connotation than any specific type of illness. Indeed, the technical name of the disease appears only on the Yiddish lyrics back cover page as the title—but nowhere in the song—as Di Shpanishe influentsiye. In verse 5 kholere appears unmodified by Shpanishe; I therefore translate it as “contagion.” Kholere is found in a great number of Yiddish curses where the speaker is not particularly concerned with which krenk befalls the victim, as long as it is grueling and punishing. Indeed “punishing” is the word’s operative intention, as in the case of neveyre. Note the antiquated spelling of the word on the title page with a khes instead of the standard khof. This older Yiddish orthography hints at a presumed Hebrew origin, as if kholere were a retributive disease related to kadokhes (biblical kodokhas), which is always spelled with a khes. The back cover lyrics are below.

TRANSCRIPTION AND TRANSLATION by Cantor Sam Weiss

1. Ikh gey mir arim in strit fartrakht
Say bay tug in say bay nakht.
In mayn hartzn kokht dus blit,
Ze’endik vi mentshn faln in strit.

REFRAIN:

Vayl di gantse velt iz yetst in trobl,
In yeder eyner zikht dem knobl.

I walk the streets deep in thought,
Be it day, be it night.
The blood is seething in my heart
As I watch people collapsing in the street.

REFRAIN:

Because the whole world is now in trouble,
And everyone is searching for garlic.

2. Mentshn zitsn in hoyz mit der neveyre,
Zey hobn moyre far der Shpanisher kholere.
Nemt mayn edvays in seyft zikh fin dem trobl,
Trinkt a glezl vayn in est dem knobl.

REFRAIN: Vayl di gantse velt…

Everyone is stuck at home with this plague,
They’re all afraid of the Spanish flu.
Take my advice and save yourself from trouble,
Drink a glass of wine and eat some garlic.

REFRAIN: Because the whole world…

3. Der Daytsh iz oykh a groyser diplomat!
Er hot gevolt farnikhtn di velt vi a rats;
Wilson hot ober genimen zikh di ere
In geshikt dem Daytsh di Shpanishe kholere.

REFRAIN: Vayl di gantse velt…

The Germans are some diplomats…
Seeking to destroy the world as if it were a rat;
But Wilson stepped right up
And sent the Germans the Spanish flu!

REFRAIN: Because the whole world…

4. Sobveys, kars, gepakt oykh fil mit mentshn;
Ikh bet bay dir, oy Got, di zolst indz bentshn!
Nem fin indz oykh di neveyre
In hit indz up fin der Shpanisher kholere.

REFRAIN: Vayl di gantse velt…

Subways, cars, all packed with people;
I beg you, God, please bless us!
Remove the plague from us too,
And shield us from the Spanish flu.

REFRAIN: Because the whole world…

5. Barbers loyfn arim azoy vi di nyankes;
Fin hoyz tsi hoyz shteln zey ayedn bankes.
Zey aleyn trugn arim di neveyre;
Zey danken Got es halt on di kholere!

REFRAIN: Vayl di gantse velt…

Barbers scurry about as if they were nurses,
From house to house, with cupping glass treatments;
They themselves are carriers of the plague,
Thanking God that the contagion perseveres!

REFRAIN: Because the whole world…

6. Mikh tsi hern zingen is nisht kayn vinder;
Mentshn, past nor oyf of ayere kinder.
Di froyen in Eyrope zenen geblibn vi ofn yakor,
In di mener in Amerike brenen vi a flaker

REFRAIN: Vayl di gantse velt…

Don’t act surprised to hear me singing;
Folks, just watch over your children.
The wives are all marooned in Europe
While their husbands are ablaze in America

REFRAIN: Because the whole world…

Below images courtesy of Michael Bennett; all rights reserved.

“Fin mitvokh in der fri (Hot a yid a vaybele)” Performed by Lifshe Schaecther Widman and Beyle Schaechter Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2020 by yiddishsong

Fin mitvokh in der fri (Hot a yid a vaybele) / From Wednesday Morning (A Man Has a Wife)
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) and Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman. LSW recorded by Leybl Kahn, 1954 NYC

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This popular song was copyrighted in the US in 1922 by Morris Goldstein, who is listed as composer and lyricist. But this is doubtful since Pepi Litman and Helen Gespass recorded a version in 1912/1913 in Budapest or Lemberg. Apparently even earlier, in 1907, Hungarian singers recorded it (see Bob Cohen’s comments below).

Here is LSW, recorded by Leybl Kahn in New York, 1954:

More recently LSW’s daughter Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman recorded Lifshe’s version on her CD Bay mayn mames shtibele with Nigel Jacobs on violin, recorded live at the Cactus Cafe in Austin, November 9th, 1993. Her lyrics are basically the same as LSW, though I do prefer her word “badekn” to LSW’s word “dekn”.

Here is the Peppi Litman version:

And here is the Gespass version:

Since the instrumental version of the song on the recording Maramaros: The Lost Jewish Music of Transylvania of the Hungarian group – Muzsikas, made such an impression, I asked Budapest resident Bob Cohen, researcher of Roma and Hungarian and Jewish musical connections, leader of the pioneering klezmer ensemble Di naye kapelye, for his take on the song.

Bob Cohen writes:

“Hot a yid a vajbele” is definitely the most popular and widespread Yiddish song in the Hungarian language area. Almost everyone I spoke with in the early 1990s knew it, and it was a standard at our old-age home gigs. It remains in the repertoire of Roma bands in Transylvania as “the Jewish song” and some even sing along to it in macaronic yid-speak as “Itta, Itta Babele”. I’ve also heard it played by Roma orchestras in Slovakia.  What is interesting is the fact that knowledge of the tune seems to have completely been forgotten among the post WWII generation of Jews, given the popularity it had among older folks I met in around 1990.

A testament to its staying power is this recording by Zoldi Marton in 1907 (Most of Zoldi’s other songs are comical Hungarian nota style in Hungarian). Also a 1912 version by the Toll Jancsi Orchestra, or the same band in 1907.

The version I played on our (Di naye kapelye’s) first recording back in 1997 came from the Gypsy primas (lead violinist) Andras Horvath of Jankamajitis, near Csenger on the Romanian border. He learned his Jewish tunes from a Jewish musician family named “Markus” before the war. He became a Seventh Day Adventist in later life, and he called me over once to tell me his life story and his relationship to Jews.

Thanks this week to Robert Cohen and Martin Schwartz. Please note: though still performed today, the song’s dated humor is misogynistic.

Fin mitvokh in der fri
biz fraytik far nakht
hot Surele mayn vayb
deym kigl gemakht.

From Wednesday in the morning
until Friday twilight,
Surele my wife
made a kugel. 

Hot a yid a vaybele
hot er fin ir tsures.
Hot a yid a vaybele
toyg zi af kapures.

A man [Jew] has a wife;
she gives him trouble,
A man has a wife
and she is not good for anything.

Vi s’iz gekimen
shabes tsim esn,
hot Surele mayn vayb
fin deym kigl gur fargesn.

When the Sabbath arrives
and  it’s time to eat.
Surele, my wife
forgot all about the kugel.

Hot a yid a vaybele
hot er fin ir tsures.
hot a yid a vaybele
toyg zi af kapures.

A man has a wife;
she gives him trouble.
A man has a wife
and she is not good for anything.

Hot er gekhapt 
deym grobn shtekn
Un hot ir ungehoybn 
git tsi dekn.

So he got
his thick cane
and started to 
beat [cover] her. 

Hot a yid a vaybele
hot er fin ir tsures.
hot a yid a vaybele
toyg zi af kapures.

A man [Jew] has a wife;
she gives him trouble,
A man has a wife
and she is not good for anything.

Hot zi gekhapt
di alte shkrabes,
tsim tatn iz zi 
avek deym shabes.

So she grabbed
her old worn-out shoes
and went to her father
for the Sabbath.

Hot a yid a vaybele
toyg zi af kapures
hot a yid a yidene
hot er fin ir tsures.

A man [Jew] has a wife;
she is good for nothing.
A man has a wife
and she gives him trouble.

Hobn di shkeynim
ungehoybn shpekulirn
me zol dus porfolk
vider tsuzamen firn. 

So the neighbors
started to speculate/plan
how to bring the couple
together again.

Hot a yid a vabele
hot er fin ir tsures.
hot a yid a vaybele
hot er fin ir tsures.

A man [Jew] has a wife;
and she gives him trouble.
A man has a wife
and she gives him trouble

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
געזונגען פֿון ליפֿשע שעכטער-ווידמאַן

פֿון מיטוואָך אין דער פֿרי
ביז פֿרײַטיק פֿאַר נאַכט
האָט שׂרהלע מײַן ווײַב
.דעם קוגל געמאַכט

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
,האָט ער פֿון איר צרות
האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
.טויג זי אויף כּפֿרות

ווי ס’איז געקומען
,שבת צום עסן 
האָט שׂרהלע מײַן ווײַב
.פֿון דעם קוגל גאָר פֿאַרגעסן

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
,האָט ער פֿון איר צרות
האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
.טויג זי אויף כּפֿרות

האָט ער געכאַפּט 
,דעם גראָבן שטעקן
און האָט איר אָנגעהויבן
.גוט צו דעקן

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
,האָט ער פֿון איר צרות
האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
.טויג זי אויף כּפֿרות

האָט זי געכאַפּט
די אַלטע שקראַבעס
צום טאַטן איז זי
.אַוועק דעם שבת

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
,האָט ער פֿון איר צרות
האָט אַ ייִד אַ ייִדענע
.האָט ער פֿון איר צרות

האָבן די שכנים
אָנגעהויבן שפּעקולירן
מע זאָל דאָס פּאָרפֿאָלק
.ווידער צוזאַמענפֿירן

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
.האָט ער פֿון איר צרות

“Tort un vayn” Performed by Tillie Fishman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2020 by yiddishsong

Tort un vayn / Cake and wine
A Yiddish version of Joe Hill’s “Pie in the Sky” sung by Tillie Fishman, recorded by Gertrude Nitzberg , Baltimore, 1979

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This is a Yiddish version of Joe Hill’s song “Pie in the Sky” originally called “The Preacher and the Slave”. Here is Cisco Houston’s version of the Joe Hill song.

Joe_hill002

Joe Hill

Joe Hill (1879 – 1915) was a labor activist , songwriter and member of the IWW – Industrial Workers of the World. He was executed for the murder of a grocer and his son in Utah, despite international protests and appeals for clemency. His memory has been preserved in the song “Joe Hill” which was recorded by Paul Robeson, Joan Baez, among others. 

Hill’s song was itself a parody of the Christian hymn “Sweet Bye and Bye” written in 1868. Here is country singer, Loretta Lynn with her version of the original hymn.

This Yiddish version of Joe Hill’s “Pie in the Sky” appeared in the songbook Mit gezang tsum kamf, songs composed and arranged by Jacob Schaeffer, 1932. Fishman sings two verses, but the songbook has five.  It does not say who translated or adapted the songs. We are attaching the music, the Yiddish text from that book, and including below a transcription of the longer version found in Schaeffer’s book. In Schaeffer’s collection the song is called “Der prister un der nar” (“The Priest and the Fool”). 

This recording is found in the Gertrude Nitzberg Collection at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. 

Did you know that Ethel Raim, Yiddish singer and teacher, founder and artistic director emeritus of CTMD,  composed a melody to “Joe Hill’s Last Will”? You can find it in the magazine “Sing Out!”, volume 11, #3, p. 29.

Special thanks with help for this week’s post to Emily Socolov.

TRANSLITERATION (Tillie Fishman’s version)

“Prist” un “preacher” haltn droshes umetum.
Vus me zugt undz, heyst men indz zayn frum.
Es mont der galakh un es shtroft der rov.
Zol shoyn nemen tsi di tsores a sof. 

Refrain

Me redt undz ayn es vet zayn. Es vet zayn.
In gan-eydn frishe broyt un vayn. Broyt un vayn.
Un dervayl shteyt in “line”. Es vet zayn
in gan-eyden tort un vayn; tort un vayn!

Fun dem eltstn biz dem klenstn kind,
vus me zogt im, zogt men as s’iz zind.
Es shtruft der galakh un es munt der rov.
Zol shoyn nemen tsu di tsores a sof.

Refrain

Me redt undz ayn es vet zayn. Es vet zayn
In gan-eydn frishe broyt un vayn. Broyt un vayn.
Un dervayl shteyt in “line”. Es vet zayn
in gan-eyden tort un vayn; tort un vayn!

TRANSLATION

Priest and preacher give speeches everywhere.
They are always saying that we should be religious.
The priest demands, the rabbi punishes.
May an end to our troubles come soon. 

Refrain

They assure us that there will be,
in heaven fresh bread and wine. Bread and wine.
In the meantime get in line. There will be
in heaven cake and wine. Cake and wine. 

From the oldest to the smallest child,
They are told that everything is a sin.
The priest punishes and the rabbi demands.
May an end to our troubles come soon. 

Refrain

They assure us that there will be, there will be,
in heaven fresh bread and wine. Bread and wine.
In the meantime get in line. There will be
in heaven cake and wine. Cake and wine. 

TRANSLITERATION OF SCHAEFFER VERSION

Pristers haltn droshes umetum
In Gots nomen heyst men undz zayn frum.
Laydn mir hunger, laydn mir noyt.
Viln mir esn, monen mir broyt.

Refrain:

Redt men undz ayn es vet zayn 
in gan-eydn frishe broyt un vayn
un dervayl shteyt in “layn”,
Es vet zayn in gan-eydn tort un vayn.

Eyder mir derzen a por sent
rayst men es oys fun undzere hent.
Prist un pritsher, yeder shvindler nemt
biz men tut undz oys dos letste hemd.

REFRAIN: Redt men undz ayn… 

Shafn far raykhe un nit far zikh.
Shteyt men in “layn” far der tir bay der kikh.
Fresn di raykhe, s’platst zey der boykh.
Volt men darlangt khotsh a bisl undz oykh.

REFRAIN: Redt men undz ayn…

Fun dem grestn biz dem klentstn kind
vos mir tuen af der erd iz zind.
Shtroft der galakh un es mont der rov.
un beshas mir tsoln undzer shtrof.

REFRAIN: Redt men undz ayn…

tort1tort2

Joe Hill’s “Pie in the Sky” in the songbook Mit gezang tsum kamf, songs composed and arranged by Jacob Schaeffer, 1932

TortYIDtxt1TortYIDtxt2

TortMusic1TortMusic2

“Der vanderer: Geboyrn bin ikh in tsores un in leydn” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 12, 2020 by yiddishsong

Der vanderer: Geboyrn bin ikh in tsores un in leydn /
The Wanderer:
I was born with troubles and suffering
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW), recorded by Leybl Kahn, NYC 1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman follows the transcription and translation.


TRANSLITERATION / TRANSLATION

Geboyrn bin ikh in tsures in in leydn
in troyer in in yumer in in klug.
Fartribn bin ekh fin ale mayne freydn.
S’mir nisht lib kayn eyntsiker tug. 

I was born with troubles and suffering,
in sorrow and with tears and misfortune.
I’ve been driven away from all my joys:
Not one day of enjoyment have I had. 

Dus imglik traybt mekh arim iberal.
Es geyt mir oft mayn leybn oys.
Vus fara tug ze ikh in ayn argern fal.
Di hofenung – dus iz mayn malekh-hamus.

Bad luck has driven me everywhere;
Often has my life nearly ended
With each passing day I see something worse.
Hope has become my angel of death.

RefraIn:

Benken, benk ikh nukh mayn heymat shtark
Dortn shteyt mayn vigele, mayn rakh.
Vi lang ken ikh nokh zayn in na-venad.

Refrain:

I long so much for my home.
There is my crib, my realm.
How long can I still wander around?

Oy, di zin, di shants zeyer lib,
Dan sheynkeyt dayn lekht iz a prakht.
Nor mir eyner shantsti nebekh, trib.
ven bay dir iz tug, iz bay mir nakht. 

O, the sun, you shine with great pleasure.
Your beauty, your light is a splendor.
But for just me  your shine is gloomy.
When it is day for you, for me it is night. 

Di derkvikst ayeydn mit dayn frimorgn,
mit shpatsirn, luft in gezint.
Nor mekh eyner derkviksti mit zorgn.
Vayl ekh bin urem, a farvuglt kind.

You delight everyone with your morning,
with walks, air and health.
But for me alone, you “delight” with worries,
for I am poor, a homeless child.

Derkh der hofnung lad ekh nebekh noyt.
Fin alem bestn makht zi mekh umbikant.
Filaykht ervartert meykh der toyt,
Vil ikh shtarbn in man futerland.

On account of hope I suffer hardship.
It has made the best things unknown to me.
Maybe death awaits me,
so I want to die in my fatherland. 

Vayl benkn, benk ikh nukh mayn haymat shtark
Dortn shteyt mayn vigele, mayn rakh.
Vi lang ken ikh nokh zayn in na-venad?
Na-vad.

{Refrain}

I long so much for my home.
There is my crib, my realm.
How long can I still wander around?
Wander around.

The Germanisms in this song can only mean one thing – “Galicia”.  The Jews who lived in Austria-Hungarian Galicia before WWI and in its sister territory Bukovina, where singer Lifshe Schaechter Widman (LSW) was from, were fluent in German, sang German songs, and had no problem with German words in their Yiddish. A Yiddish writer I often associate with Galicia, Fradl Shtok (from Brody?), mentions this song in her story “Komediantn” (Gezamlte dertseylungen, 1919, p. 57.)  There, a street performer sings and plays on the flute – “Benken, benk ikh nokh mayn heymat…”. Unfortunately, she ends the song there.

Chagall-Over-Vitebsk-GettyImages-CROPPED-1843825-5aad718ea474be0019b9d26e (1)“Over Vitebsk” by Marc Chagall, 1914

A printed version of this song, sung by Z. Goldstein, text and music, appears in Shloyme Prizament’s book Broder zinger (pages 163 – 164) with the same title that LSW uses to introduce the song “Der vanderer”. Other than the refrain, the words and music are quite different. The fact that both Goldstein and LSW call it with the same title, “The Wanderer”, indicates, in my opinion, that it is from a play or, more likely, a popular Broder zinger tavern performance (for a recent article on Broder zinger see the article “Broder Singers: Forerunners of the Yiddish Theater” by Amanda [Miryem-Khaye] Seigel).

The song became a beggar’s song at some point. In volume 8, #22 in the CD series Historical Collection of Jewish Musical Folklore 1912 – 1947 produced by the Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine, Kiev,  the singer Yeshaya Khazan, recorded in 1939, sings a similar version to LSW. Khazan refers to this as a beggar song and his emotional performance, punctuated with “oy veys!” bears this out.

A longer printed version of the song, and one that is closest to LSW’s version, can be found in the collection of folk poetry Zeks yidishe folks lider (Six Yiddish folks songs) by  L. M. Graboys (or Groboys), Kishinev, 1900.

zeks cover

Here the song is entitled “Benken benk ikh”. Though the author implies that he is the author of all the songs in the collection, this is doubtful. The first song “Der bal-dover mit dem khoyle”  [the devil and the sick one] is a long version of the old ballad “Der lomp vert farloshn”, (listen to LSW’s version of this on Yiddish Song of the Week posted in 2011) which Graboys/Groboys certainly did not write. 

One word gave me particular trouble in this song. In the refrain, all of the sources except LSW sing “Dortn iz  mayn vigele, mayn rekht”. What is meant by “rekht” in this context? I have heard many suggestions: birthright, citizenship, rights, among them. All are possible, though I have never heard “rekht” used that way with this syntax. LSW sings a different word which I hear as “raykh” (“reich” in German) and translate as “realm”.

During the short discussion after the song between collector Leybl Kahn and LSW, she clarifies that it is not a Zionist song. 

Special thanks this week to Eliezer Niborski.

vanderer1vanderer2