Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Benny Goodman: Bei Mir Bist Du Schön



From that famous concert at Carnegie Hall: January 16, 1938, with Martha Tilton singing a truncated version. It's arguably the best version of this Yiddish classic. This song, originally written in Yiddish by Jacob Jacobs (lyrics) and Sholem Secunda (music), was for the Yiddish operetta, "I Would If I Could, written in 1932 by Abraham Bloom.

The  English lyrics were written for the Andrews Sisters in mind (their version here) by Sammy Cahn and Saul Chaplin a few days before their  recording on Nov 24, 1937. (There is a good article, SHOLOM SECUNDA: The Story of Bei Mir Bist Du Schön, on the song's history, and how Secunda had sold the rights to the song for $30.).

The word Schön is not traditionally Yiddish but German, and it was inserted into the title to appeal to a German-buying audience during a time when there was rising anti-Semitism in the United States (the 1930s). The song was so popular that it was sung by the Nazis, until they discovered the song's writers were Jewish. By many accounts, the correct Yiddish title is Bei Mir Bist du Shayn, which translates as "By Me, You Are Beautiful." But I leave it the way it was originally published for historical accuracy.

Bei Mir Bist Du Schön
by Shalom Secunda & Jacob Jacobs (Yiddish)
Sammy Cahn  & Saul Chaplin
(English)


Of all the boys I've known, and I've known some
Until I first met you, I was lonesome
And when you came in sight, dear, my heart grew light
And this old world seemed new to me

You're really swell, I have to admit you
Deserve expressions that really fit you
And so I've racked my brain, hoping to explain
All the things that you do to me

Bei mir bist du schön, please let me explain
Bei mir bist du schön means you're grand
Bei mir bist du schön, again I'll explain
It means you're the fairest in the land

I could say "Bella, bella", even say "Voonderbar"
Each language only helps me tell you how grand you are

I've tried to explain, bei mir bist du schön
So kiss me and say you understand

Bei mir bist du schön, you've heard it all before
but let me try to explain
Bei mir bist du schön means that you're grand
Bei mir bist du schön, it's such an old refrain
and yet I should explain
It means I am begging for your hand

I could say "Bella, bella", even say "Voonderbar"
Each language only helps me tell you how grand you are

------ instrumental break ------

I could say "Bella, bella", even say "Voonderbar"
Each language only helps me tell you how grand you are

I've tried to explain, bei mir bist du schön
So kiss me and say that you will understand

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