My Yiddishe Momma

May 18th, 2020 § 0 comments

Mother’s Day has passed and BSK was appropriately honored by husband, children and grandchildren. Deservedly so. There are lots of songs about Mother. Sentimental and soporific. However, one stands out for pure schmaltz. It’s the tearjerker: “My Yiddishe Momma.” Big hit in 20’s and 30’s vaudeville as sung by Belle Baker, Sophie Tucker and other lusty Jewish ladies with big voices. Song has legs. You can still hear it today. A good venue would be New York’s Sammy’s Romanian Restaurant, a joint that still dispenses schmaltz in the form of chicken fat and in aged, sentimental melodies. (“Beltz, My Shteteleh Beltz” is a big winner). “My Yiddishe Momma” was written by songwriter Jack Yellen ((1882-1991) in the 1920’s. Google the saccharine lyrics. Yellen was prolific. He wrote hundreds of songs (Big hits were FDR’s theme song, “Happy Days are Here Again” and the standard, “Ain’t She Sweet”) plus many film scores. “My Yiddishe Momme” could reduce Jewish (and other) tough guys to tears. Many, many decades ago, journalist HG would join reporters, cops, detectives, loan sharks, bail bondsmen and other raffish characters (including a Lepke mob hitman) at Moe Dubiner’s bar and restaurant on Stanton Street in the Lower East Side. Perfect spot for late night drinking and conviviality. Closing time was very flexible.The group was often joined by Alice C., an attractive young Broadway press agent. She had run away from home at 15 and was a chorus girl in las Vegas and then a singer and entertainer in Jewish Catskill Mountains hotels. Alice was a very heavy drinker and liking the drinks on the house it encouraged, was often coaxed into singing “My Yiddishe Momma” (in English and Yiddish with many encores). Tears rolled down the faces of the tough guys and there were even some sobs. Drinking even more than usual, Alice befouled herself in the bathroom. HG cleaned her up a bit and brought Alice to her apartment in the Chelsea neighborhood. HG stripped Alice (No, HG and Alice were not lovers, just close pals) and plunged her into a hot shower. Comfortable in a fleece bathrobe, Alice was soon sober (black coffee helped). HG delivered a fierce lecture. You sank low tonight, Alice. You are better than this. You are a brilliant and beautiful woman. No more Dubiner’s. No more booze. Make a life for yourself. Never saw Alice again. Years later HG learned Alice became a doctor (a pediatrician), was married (happily) to another doctor; had two children and lived in a Connecticut suburb. Surprising happy ending. By the way, the best version of “My Yiddishe Momma” is in French, sung by the late Charles Aznavour (“The French Sinatra”). You can hear it on Youtube.

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