Saturday, September 29, 2012

Aaron Lebedeff: A Yiddish Maidel Darf A Yiddischen Boy

Aaron Lebedeff sings "A Yiddish Maidel Darf  A Yiddischen Boy."

Title: A Yiddish Meydl Darf A Yidishn Boy: אַ ייִדיש מײדל דאַרף אַ ייַדישן בױ
Lyrics: Jacob Jacobs (born Yaakov Yakubovitsh):  זשאַקאָבס, זשאַקאָב
Composer: Alexander Olshanetsky:  אָלשאַנעצקי, אַלעקסאַנדער

Aaron Lebedeff [1873-1960], considered the Maurice Chevalier of the Yiddish stage, was one of the top song-and-dance men of the Yiddish theater. He was born in Homel, White Russia (present day Belarus), and moved to New York City in 1920. One Yiddish music site writes:
When he finally arrived in New York in 1920, he scored an immediate personal success at Boris Thomashcfsky's storied National Theatre in a play called Liovka Molodez. Thus began sixteen years on Second Avenue, during which he played a full season each year, never missing even a week. Ever gay, in his straw hat and faultlessly tailored clothes, he seemed to many the Maurice Chevalier of the Yiddish stage.
He became famous for roles like The Rumanian Litvak, and though after awhile his vehicles assumed a typed character, the audiences loved him. The New York Times in a review in October 1932 commented that he delighted the public in roles in which he was invariably "an ingratiating provincial who is always the victim of misfortune in the first act, only to shine forth resplendent with simoleons and a slick sennet in the closing act."
At sixty-one, when he was stilt playing romantic leads (albeit wearing a hat to hide a receding hair fine), he divulged to a reporter for the New York American his formula for perpetual youth: "Dress well, eat and drink what you like, and remain constantly in love." Though he was surrounded by adoring females wherever he went, he remained happily married to the actress Vera Lebedeff (Rebecca Shehtman).
Even the rise of talking pictures and the decline of the Yiddish stage dimmed his luster only slightly, for he went on to star m Yiddish vaudeville at the National and Clinton Theatres, where Yiddish talkies and eight live acts shared the bill. To list all the ephemeral Yiddish plays in which he appeared is almost impossible. Among his notable musicals were My Malkele (1937) and Bublitchki (1938) in which he co-starred with Molly Picon, Yankele Litvak,  Yoshke Chvat, Motke from Slobodke, Money Talks, (with Michael Michaclesko, 1952),  The Magic Melody (1953) and My Weekend Bride (1955). In 1953 he was one of the famous Yiddish stars honored at a special anniversary performance for Israel Bonds at the National Theatre (and the only one, true to his usual form, who was called back for several encores).

A Yiddish meydl darf a yidishn boy
S'iz sheyn in eydl
In es darf dokh azoy Zine
Nu, vus zhe toyg aykh tsures zichn
In aleyn in blotes krichhn
A yidish meydl darf a yidishn boy

**These lyrics below are only the chorus from original sheet music:

A Yidish meidel darf a Yidishen boy
Siz shein in aidl in es darf zein azoy
Vos zolt ihr zich tzures zichen
alain in blute krichen
A Yidish meidel darf a Yidishen boy
oi sis a mi-chi-a
oi sis on on-tick
far eich a velt a nei-ya
in far inz a glick

[English Translation]

A Yiddish girl needs to have a Yiddish boy
It's beautiful and noble
And it has to be that way
Now, what need have you to look for trouble,
And end up crawling into the mud
A Yiddish girl needs to have a Yidish boy


  1. My parents owned a 78 RPM record of Lebedeff singing "Oy I'm Crazy for She." It was in a mixture of Yiddish and English, and included the line "Iz zi azoy geshmak vi a Galitsyaner boshtsh" (She's as delicious as a Galician borsht).
    Lebedeff always sang in Northeastern (Litvish) Yiddish, unlike the Southeastern (Ukrainian-Romanian) heard on the Yiddish stage.

  2. Thank you for the information; I understand his Yiddish more than others.


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