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Posted by on Mar 12, 2010

Music for 3.12.2010: Bei Mir Bistu Shein בייַ מיר ביסטו שיין

The music I am listening to today is Bei Mir Bistu Shein (בייַ מיר ביסטו שיין), an old Yiddish song that I am particularly fond of. It is most certainly worth both a listen to below as well as a read here.

The following is from Wikipedia so please gauge accordingly:

Bei Mir Bistu Shein (Yiddish: בייַ מיר ביסטו שיין, “To Me You’re Beautiful”) is a popular Yiddish song composed by Jacob Jacobs (lyricist) and Sholom Secunda (composer) for a Yiddish musical, I Would if I Could (in Yiddish, Men Ken Lebn Nor Men Lost Nisht, “you could live, but they won’t let you”) in 1932 that closed after one season. Secunda sold the publishing rights to the song for a mere US$30.

The original Yiddish version of the song (in C minor) is really a dialogue between two lovers who share lines of the song. The song became famous with English lyrics but retaining the Yiddish title, Bei Mir Bistu Shein. However, it also appeared with the quasi-German title Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen (in german: Für mich bist Du schön).

In 1937, Sammy Cahn heard a performance of the song, sung in Yiddish by African American performers Johnnie and George at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. On seeing the response, Cahn got his employer to buy the rights so he (together with Saul Chaplin) could rewrite the song with English language lyrics and rhythms more typical of swing music. He then convinced the still unknown Andrews Sisters to perform the song (recorded November 24, 1937). It became their first major hit, earning them a Gold Record, the first ever to a female vocal group.

What romance apparently looked like in the 1920s.

Just for the tame sport of it, I decided to include a version of The Andrews Sisters singing the same song. If only to lower expectations of the original.

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