Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tom Jones: My Yiddishe Mama

This version is from the album, Tom Jones Live!: At The Talk of The Town, released by Decca Records in 1967. Talk of the Town was a popular cabaret restaurant in London [1958-1982], which featured many of the known artists at the time including Tom Jones, Dustry Springfield, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Stevie Wonder, Neil Sedaka, and Matt Monroe, to name only a few.

For a fine version in Yiddish, listen to Yosef Rosenblatt, in Russian and Yiddish to Yosef Kobzon or in French (La Yiddishe Mama) to Charles Aznavour and in English to Sophie Tucker. Of the singers of this song, both Tom Jones (Welsh) and Charles Aznavour (Armenian) are not Jewish, which only proves that a good song has international and universal appeal.

The song was composed by Jack Yellen and Lew Pollack, and made famous during the last days of Vaudeville by Belle Baker and Sophie Tucker in the 1920s, after the death of her own mother:
Sophie Tucker began singing "My Yiddishe Momme" in 1925, after the death of her own mother.[1] " She later dedicated her autobiography "Some Of These Days" to Yellen, "A grand song writer, and a grander friend".[2] Sophie Tucker made `Mama' a top 5 USA hit in 1928, English on one side and Yiddish on the B-side. [Leo] Fuld combined both in one track and made it a hit in the rest of the world."[3]

The song, in English and Yiddish, plays on stereotypes of the Jewish mother; sadder in the original Yiddish than in the English translation, the mother also implicitly symbolizes a sense of nostalgia for the "old world", as well as guilt for having left it behind in assimilating into American society.[1]
I was fortunate enough to have had a wonderful Yiddish mama, who passed away in  December 2006, aged 83. I miss her and have only good memories of her and her ways. I am not being mawkish, maudlin or overly sentimental when I say this. We need more of such warm sentiments and less of others that are cold. This song is for her, my mama, and to all mamas and their children who love them. Your good deeds will not go unrewarded or unnoticed.

The lyrics in Yiddish are different than the lyrics in English, but the sentiment remains similar.

Mein Yiddishe Mamme

Ich vill bay aych a kashe freygen,
Zugt mir ver es ken,
Mit vifl tayere farmaygns,
Bensht Gott allamen?
Men kriegt dus nit far kayne gelt,
Dus krigt men nur im zist,
Und der vus hot verloren,
Der vays shoyn vus ich mayn
A yiddishe mamma,
Nisht du kein besser in der welt.
A yiddishe Mamma
Oy vey tzis bisser ven zie fehlt,
Vie shayn und lichtig tzis in Hois,
Ven die mama's du,
Vie traurig finster tzvert,
Ven Gott nehmt ihr oyf Oylam habu.

In vasser und fayer,
Vollt sie geloffn fahr ihr kind,
Nisht halt'n ihr tayer.
Dos iz geviss der greste Zind.
Oy vie gliklach und raych
Is der Mensch vus hut,
Az a tayere matune geschenkt fun Gott,
Wie an altechke Yiddishe Mamma,
Mamma, oy Mamme mein.

My Yiddishe Mama
English lyrics

My Yiddishe momme
I need her more than ever now
My Yiddishe momme
Id like to kiss her wrinkled brow
I long to hold her hand once more
As in days gone by
And ask her to forgive me
For things I did that made her cry

How few were her pleasures
She never cared for fashion styles
Her jewels and her treasures
She found them in her baby's smiles
Oh I know that I owe what I am today
To that dear little lady who's gone away
To that wonderful Yddishe momme
momme, momme of mine