Shpil, Gitar

Play, Guitar
שפּיל, גיטאַר!

This is a translation of the Russian song “Chto mnie gore” by Samuil lakovlevich Pokrass (1894-1939). Submitted by Arnold Sisk, Hallandale, Fla. It was sung by Lori Wilner in the play Those Were the Days. Singers Joanne Barts and Phyllis Berk also popularized the song.

Illustration of musical notes from the books


Play, guitar, till my sorrow goes away.
Let many strings break.
I want to get drunk on wine and champagne,
And forget the way things were.

Why worry
About tomorrow
Fill the goblet with wine;
Raise the goblet
Higher, higher
Pain dissolves in the wine.

The gypsies rest and sleep,
And one no longer hears any songs.
But as long as there’s a drop of wine,
Life and death are both the same.

Old and weak, without a roof,
All alone is a great big gypsy
Who used to steal horses and make love to girls,
And he used to sing his song so beautifully.

Shpil, gitar, biz mayn tsar vet oyfhern,
Zoln platsn di strunes on a tsol.
Kh’vil mit vayn un shampayn shiker vern, oy,
Un fargesn vos geven iz a mol.

Tsu vos zhe zorgn
Fam morgn,
Fil dem bekher on mit vayn;
Heyb dem bekher
Hekher, hekher,
In dem vayn fargeyt der payn.

Di tsigayner, zey ruen un shlofn,
Un men hert shoyri keyn lidl nisht meyn;
Nor kol-zman s’iz faran vayn a tropn,
lz dos lebn un der toyt shoyn alts eyns.

Alt un shvakh, on a dakh, iz farblibn
A tsigayner, a held, gants aleyn;
Ferdlekh ganvenen, meydlekh fil libn,
Er flegt zingen dos lid azoy sheyri.

שפּיל, גיטאַר, ביז מײַן צער װועט אױפֿהערן,
זאָלן פּלאַצן די סטרונעם אָן אַ צאָל,
כ׳װיל מיט װײן און שאַמפּײן שִיכּוֹר װוערן, אױ,
און פֿאַרגעסן װאָס געװען איז אַ מאָל.

צו װאָס זשע זאָרגן
פֿאַרן מאָרגן,
פֿיל דעס בעכער אָן מיט װײַן;
הײב דעם בעכער,
העכער, העכער,
אין דעם װײַן פֿאַרגײט דער פּײַן

די ציגײַנער, זײ רוען און שלאָפֿן,
און מען הערט שױן קײן לידל שױן מײן;
נאָר כּל-זמַן ס׳איז פֿאַראַן װײַן אַ טראָפֿן,
איז דאָס לעבן און דער טױט שױן אַלצ אײנס.

אַלט און שװואַך, אָן אַ דאַך, איז פֿאַרבליבן
אַ ציגײַנער, אַ העלד, גאַנצ אַלײן,
פֿערדלעך גנבֿענען, מײדלעך פֿיל ליבן,
ער פֿלעגט זינגען דאָס ליד אַזױ שײן.

Song Title: Shpil, Gitar

Composer: Unknown
Composer’s Yiddish Name: Unknown
Lyricist: Samuil lakovlevich Pokrass
Lyricist’s Yiddish Name: סאַמויל יאַקאָװלעװיטש פּאָקראַס
Time Period: Unspecified

This Song is Part of a Collection

Songs of Generations: New Pearls of Yiddish Song

The Songs of Generations: New Pearls of Yiddish Song anthology comprises songs that were either never printed before or appeared in rare and inaccessible publications — sometimes in different versions and without proper sources. Most of the songs in this book were submitted by readers of Chana and Yosl’s column “Perl fun der yidisher poezye” (Pearls of Yiddish Poetry) in the Yiddish newspaper Der Forverts (The Forward), initiated in October, 1970. Over 25 years, thousands of songs were collected in correspondence and on cassettes from readers throughout the world, and they represent a veritable national Yiddish song archive. Chana Mlotek, in her introduction, writes, “In the course of years the inquiries, contributions and enthusiasm of these readers have kept our own interest unflagging and have reinforced our dedication to this effort. And in recent years our participants have also been augmented by new readers from the former Soviet Russia, who receive our newspaper there or from newly-arrived immigrants in this country and Israel.”

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