Another Fine Mashup
June 29, 2012 12:04 PM   Subscribe

Bei mir bist du scheen (or schejn or schön or schoen) by Azerbaijani pop singer Ilhama (featuring DJ OGB) is a recent remake of a 1930's Yiddish song originally translated for the Andrews Sisters. The visuals featuring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are as much fun as the music. (Check out L&H dancing and singing in "Way Out West".) But still, my all-time favorite interpretation of the 'Bei Mir' song was a 1976 commercial for Shasta Soft Drinks that repurposed it as "Root Beer, Mister Shane".
posted by oneswellfoop (38 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I love this. I grew up listening to the Andrews Sisters with my grandparents (and Edit Piaf and that whole world of music). This is a fun play on that music and a wonderful memory. Thank you for posting.
posted by anya32 at 12:12 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

IIRC, the original Yiddish lyrics were very different from what the Andrew Sisters wound up singing in translation. Great stuff.
posted by Melismata at 12:13 PM on June 29, 2012

"Bei mir bist du schoen" is one of the select few in the category (that I assume we all have) I will never tire of hearing. I a suddenly gripped with a desire to go looking for every cover of it I can find.

Also I can't help singing along; if it starts playing somewhere public I have to remind myself that nobody wants to hear me.
posted by tzikeh at 12:18 PM on June 29, 2012

Yes, I used the word "translated" rather loosely.

And THANK YOU ZenMasterThis for the perfect infusion of bears and kazoo to this topic.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:19 PM on June 29, 2012

Yup. Shasta root beer. Geez that was some nasty shit. Great commercial though.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:23 PM on June 29, 2012

In case you think the Andrews Sisters are too goyische, I highly recommend the Barry Sisters version.
posted by jonp72 at 12:27 PM on June 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

This is one of the best songs to swing dance to.
posted by Miko at 12:29 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've always loved the recording of this from Benny Goodman Live at Carnegie Hall, 1938, with Martha Tilton.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:32 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

In case you think the Andrews Sisters are too goyische, I highly recommend the Barry Sisters version.

And in case the Barrys aren't quite 1/3 Italian enough for you, the Puppini Sisters version is fine as well.
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:33 PM on June 29, 2012

If only the Del Rubio Triplets had done it...
posted by mykescipark at 12:35 PM on June 29, 2012

This is a really fascinating song. It's a piece from Yiddish musical theater, which was an almost entirely American phenomenon. The song is by the marvelously named Jacob Jacobs, who was still doing musical theater up to the 1970s, when his The President's Daughter opened on Broadway. The music was by Sholom Secunda, who was also responsible for "Donna Donna," which, like a lot of music for Yiddish theater, people wrongly assume is a folk song.

People assume "Bei Mir Bistu Shein" is a folk song, and, as a result, tend to lift its melody pretty freely. Here's a Russian version called "V Keiptaunskom portu," "In Capestown Port."It's also known in Russia as "Baron Fod Der Pshik." The Russian-American surf band (how often do you get to type that?) did a version called My Darling Lorraine.

The Nazuis really liked the song too, until they figured out where it came from. There's an excellent history of the song here.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:37 PM on June 29, 2012 [15 favorites]

Argh, I can't find it now, but there was a funny comparison of the original lyrics and the ones eventually used by the Andrew Sisters. The original lyrics said something along the lines of "To me, you are beautiful because of the way you herd your goats" or something like that. I'll keep looking.
posted by Melismata at 12:43 PM on June 29, 2012

This is awesome. I saw this video earlier today and almost made an AskMefi post about it wondering what genre it fell into. It's so damn catchy and familiar but I just couldn't place it into a category.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:48 PM on June 29, 2012

Swing Heil!
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:48 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm partial to the Vagabond Opera version myself.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 12:55 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Following on to Bunny Ultramod's comment about Yiddish theatre, an interesting related link is the Yiddish Radio Project.
posted by Miko at 12:57 PM on June 29, 2012

Here are the original Yiddish lyrics:

Kh'vel dir zogn, dir glaykh tzu hern
Az du zolst mir libe derklern
Ven du redst mit di oygn
Volt ikh mit dir gefloygn vu du vilst
S'art mikh nit on
Ven du host a bisele seykhl
Un ven du vaytzt dayn kindershn shmeykhl
Vendu bist vild vi indianer
Bist afile a galitsianer
Zog ikh: dos art mikh nit.

Bay mir bistu sheyn,
Bay mir hos tu heyn,
Bay mir bistu eyner oyf der velt.
Bay mir bistu sheyn,
Bay mir hostu heyn,
Bay mir bistu tayerer fun gelt.

Fil sheyne meydlekh hobn gevolt nemen mir,
Un fun zay ale oys-geklibn hob ikh nor dikh.

I will say to you so that you would hear,
"I love you."
When you speak with your eyes,
I would fly with you wherever you wish --
I do not care where."
When you have a bit of sense
And when you show your childlike little smile,
When you are wild as an Indian,
Even if you were a Galitzyaner,
I say: It doesn't bother me.

To me, you are lovely,
To me, you are charming.
To me, you are the only one in the world.
To me, you are lovely,
To me, you are charming,
To me, you are more precious than money.

Many pretty girls
Wanted me for a husband
But among them all I chose only you.


By the way, the "Galitzyaner" line references a sort of lost history of European Jews, in that the sort of had regional rivalries which, at best, was a little like when Minnesotans make fun of Iowans (I actually think every neighboring state makes fun of Iowa), but at worst was really antagonistic. So this represents a rivalry between Lithuanian Jews -- Liyvaks -- and Polish Jews, called Galitzyaner. Litvaks saw themselves as smart, learned, and sophisticated, whereas the Galitzyaners were seen as shrewd and tricksy, but uneducated and a little backwoods.

There were all sorts of these European groups. German Jews were called yekke, which either means "jacket" (German Jews tended to dress in more modern styles, so their coats had no tails) or "Jacob," based on a shibboleth that German Jews pronounced the name Jacob differently. And there were Jews from Spain in Europe that were called Sephardi. I know there were other regional and ethnic distinctions in European culture, and they all sort of ribbed each other, but I would have to dig around to remember them.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:59 PM on June 29, 2012 [12 favorites]

Litvaks, rather; not Liyvaks.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:00 PM on June 29, 2012

Bunny, the history of the song link you posted has a (perhaps a bit more literal?) translation of the lyrics.

Even if you had a Tatar complexion,
even if you had tomcat eyes,
and even if you had a little limp,
or had wooden legs,
I would say, “It doesn’t bother me.”

Even if you had a foolish smile,
or were an utter simpleton,
even if you were as unrefined as a wild Indian,
even if you were as common as a coarse Galician Jew,
I’d say, “It doesn’t bother me.”

“Tell me, how do you explain it?”
Okay, I’ll tell you why:

Because to me you’re beautiful,
to me you have grace,
to me you’re one of a kind.

To me you’re great,
to me you have “it,”
to me you’re more precious than riches.
Many beautiful girls have wanted me,
and from all of them I chose only you.
Because to me you’re beautiful,
to me you have grace,
to me you’re one of a kind.
posted by fings at 1:08 PM on June 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

That's the one I remember, thanks fings! (It was tomcats and wooden legs I was trying to remember apparently, not goats...)
posted by Melismata at 1:18 PM on June 29, 2012

I love modern europop reworkings like this. I know the guy with the sort-of-beard was saying "scheen" (or "sheyn"), but I kept hearing it as "Shane," and was half expecting them to edit in the scene where the little boy yells "Shane, come back!"
posted by Forktine at 1:35 PM on June 29, 2012

Actually, I'm enjoying this discussion so much, I am going to contribute a little more.

I recently joined SAG-AFTRA. One of the things about joining a union is that you cannot work non-union work for any of the union's affiliated. In the case of SAG-AFTRA, it is one of the 4As -- a federation of trade unions that includes Equity, the American Guild of Musical Artists, the American Guild of Variety Artists, and two others I find very interest, one defunct.

The one still existing is the Guild of Italian American Actors, which has jurisdiction over Italian-language productions, which there isn't much of anymore, and also is a resource for mainstream productions seeking Italian-American actors.

The second group, which undoubtedly was involved in the original Bei mir bist du scheen, was the Hebrew Actors' Union, which was the very first union to set a pay scale and make sure that theaters only hired union talent. YIVO has a page about the union, the result of an exhibition they did. The union was decertified in October of 2005. Although Yiddish theater had really dwindled before then, I think that as good a moment as any to declare its official death, but for occasional productions by dedicated revivalists.

We think of Yiddish as the language of European Jews, but I think a case can be made that one of its greatest flourishings as a literary language happened in the United States. You would be amazed at how many songs we think of as Jewish European folk songs were, in fact, written in America for American Yiddish theater. "My Yiddishe Momme?" American. "Di grine kuzine?" American.

There as an interesting article that Michael Chabon wrote prior to writing "The Yiddish Policeman's Union" that identified the source of the book, where he talked about reading books on speaking the Yiddish language, and it was full of all of the sorts of phrases you would find in any language book. Where is the hotel? How much is the meal? And he found the perplexing and delightful, because where is there a place where everybody speaks Yiddish and so these quotidian phrases are necessary? And that's why he imagined a modern place where everybody speaks Yiddish.

But he got some pushback on that from older Jews, who pointed out that, once upon a time, that place was everywhere in the world. If you could find Jews, you could speak to them. If there was a Jew at a hotel, you could ask, in Yiddish, how much the room was. If there was a Jew in a store, you could discuss the price of an item. That, once upon a time, these phrases might be very useful, because Yiddish was a sort of Esperanto for Jews of European decent, and you didn't even have to be in Europe to use it. There was a massive Yiddish-speaking population in Mexico (still are!). There were Yiddish speaking Jews in Japane (still are!).

Yiddish language plays had a sort of a chitlin circuit of its own, except that circuit was the whole Yiddish-speaking world. I sort of envy that era. Jews around the world are pretty disconnected from each other nowadays. We don't have a common language, and we don't have cultural institutions in common like we used to. There was a time, in New York, that you saw a play that you knew other people had seen in Minsk earlier that year, and maybe had the same cast, and you could talk to all of them. Now? I don't know any Jews in Minsk. I don't know what they listen to. I don't know what they watch. Probably "The Avengers," which is nice, but there's nothing distinctly Jewish about that. And, as I am a secular Jew, I would like to be able to be secular and Jewish with them. But international secular Judaism was based around Yiddish, and so it's loss was a sort of anti-internet, unplugging Jews from each other and turning us into scattered tribes around the world.

It's a pity as well because Yiddish is a glorious language. I wish I spoke more of it, and I speak more of it than most Jews my age.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:42 PM on June 29, 2012 [11 favorites]

Don't forget the Hasidim, Bunny, who are keeping Yiddish alive in America (to the point where they don't learn enough English to be employable, but that's a WHOLE nother post...).
posted by Melismata at 1:47 PM on June 29, 2012

They're keeping a sort of Yiddish alive. But not the secularized, really filthy Yiddish I like.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:51 PM on June 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

Bunny Ultramod, have you read "The Hare with the Amber Eyes"? I think you'd appreciate it.
posted by mumimor at 2:14 PM on June 29, 2012

Never have. I will look for it! Thanks for the recommendation!
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:15 PM on June 29, 2012

There's a riff in this which sounds like this which is sort of a remake of this.
posted by BungaDunga at 2:33 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Great post, great comments.

Metafilter, bey mir bist du sheynste auf dem Web.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:51 PM on June 29, 2012

Swing Heil!

HA, I came in to add that, but you beat me to it. Swing Kids (one of my very favorite movies in middle school that I am too scared to watch now because I am absolutely convinced it has been visited by the suck fairy in the meantime) is the reason I know "Bei mir bist du scheen" - I had no idea the song was such an institution!
posted by naoko at 2:57 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I can't be the only one who genuinely thought the Andrews Sisters were singing "...'bout Me & Mr. Shane"?

I always assumed the lyrics were about a young woman being caught in a mildly compromising position with someone who was a bit older, this Mr. Shane!?

(I also thought the song didn't quite make sense, but I honestly didn't know any better until I read this thread! What an excruciating mistake.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 3:00 PM on June 29, 2012

Jacobs and Secunda sold the rights to the song to Sammy Cahn for $30. It went on to gross over $3 million, all of which royalties they missed out on.
posted by jasper411 at 3:14 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's nice, but few things are as satisfying as Yiddish Gilbert and Sullivan.
posted by pentagoet at 3:45 PM on June 29, 2012

ZenMasterThis: "Jean Shepherd did it best ... "

I came expecting to see this. Was not disappointed.
posted by Splunge at 4:39 PM on June 29, 2012

As Miko says, it is very popular with the Lindy hoppers, here is a classic (2003) web video of Kevin and Carla Swinging it at Barswingona .
This post is grand, and the comments too.
Thank you Everyone.
posted by Drew Glass at 4:51 PM on June 29, 2012

Cool post! Thanks, oneswellfoop. And what an informative and fun thread. Good blue.

Laurel and Hardy's charming flicks lend themselves to catchy, likable musical mash-ups, including the one of the OP. Love that Electro Swing! A little about it.

Adding Yiddish Hillbillies mash-up into the mix.

Not in the Yiddish aspect but in the mash-up direction, one of my faves. Makes me swing dance in my chair.

Charleston Disco

The well known web chestnut L&H mashed with Santana.

This is one of my fave old-new dance mash-ups, Phantom (1930 version) and dubstep, created by Parov Stelar; dancing by alluringly watchable takeSomeCrime.
posted by nickyskye at 5:41 PM on June 29, 2012

And here I was, wondering why I couldn't google anything on that cool song, "My Dear Mr. Shanks"...
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 5:41 PM on June 29, 2012

I thought this song sounded familiar. Here is a cover version by the Sisters of Mercy, if you need a goth flavour to your yiddish jig.
posted by Mezentian at 7:02 PM on June 29, 2012

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