Abi gezunt 02:44

Liner Notes

Abi gezunt; Mazl; and Ikh zing—three of the songs featured on this collection—were written for the popular 1938 Yiddish film Mamele (Little Mama, also subtitled in English, “Kid Mother”). Made in Poland, as were a number of American-produced Yiddish films during the 1930s (this one less than a year before the German invasion), it starred the inimitable Molly Picon (1898–1992), probably Second Avenue’s longest-reigning queen and the best-known Yiddish actress/singer later on Broadway. The first American-born Yiddish performer to rise to the highest levels of Second Avenue fame and box-office attraction, Picon starred in countless plays, operettas, revues, and musicals over several decades, enchanting audiences with her unique, direct, almost childlike voice and her idiomatic humor and emblematic stage mannerisms. She also appeared in memorable films and wrote plays and lyrics. All three of the songs here are her words with Ellstein’s music.

Mamele costarred Edmund Zayenda, with a full cast under the artistic direction of Molly Picon’s actor-singer husband, Jacob (Yankel) Kalich. Eight years earlier there was a staged operetta on the same story, with music by Joseph Rumshinsky. In the film, Picon played the heroine, Khavshe—the youngest of three sisters in a family of six siblings in a prewar Polish town—whose mother has died. To her falls the role of substitute “little mother”—one for which, despite her young age, she seems naturally suited, taking care of the entire household and all her siblings. When she feels she must avert her older sister Berta’s path toward marriage with an undesirable man, Khavshe is willing to sacrifice her own happiness by trying to convince her sweetheart, a musician named Mr. Schlessinger, to pursue Berta instead and thus win the girl away from her current involvement. Initially, Schlessinger had been interested in Berta, but she had rebuffed him. Now, suddenly jealous that her younger sister is closer to marriage than she is, Berta is not only amenable but asks Khavshe to persuade Schlessinger to give her a second chance. But when the sacrifice plan backfires and the family quarrels with Khavshe for interfering in Berta’s romantic affairs, Khavshe decides to leave the family to its own devices and exit the home. She revises her appearance to the attractive young maiden she really is and goes to Schlessinger—for herself. She finds him singing a love song, which becomes a love song for her. They become engaged. Meanwhile, her family pleads for her return.  She does so, now with her fiancé. They marry, and she accepts a dual role as wife and, once again, as “little mother” to the siblings.

Khavshe sings Abi gezunt (So Long As You’re Healthy) in the midst of preparations for the Sabbath eve meal, while reminding her sister of the quintessential Jewish sentiment that good health is all that is really needed for happiness. This became one of Picon’s two most recognizable theme songs (along with Yankele). So quickly did it become a hit that Cab Calloway took the title for an otherwise unrelated new swing-band tune, A Bee Gezindt.

By: Neil W. Levin



Lyrics by Molly Picon

A bit of sun, a bit of rain,
a peaceful place to lay your head …
so long as you’re healthy, you can be happy.

A shoe, a sock, an outfit without patches,
three or four measly coins in your pocket …
so long as you’re healthy, you can be happy.

The air is free, equal for all;
the sun shines for everyone,
whether rich or poor.

A little rejoicing, a little laughter,
some schnapps with a friend once in a while …
so long as you’re healthy, you can be happy.

Some look for riches,
some look for power,
to conquer the whole world.
Some think that all happiness
depends only on money.

Let them all search,
let them all scrounge.
But I think to myself that
I have no use for such things,
since happiness is waiting at my doorstep.

Lyrics by Molly Picon

a bisl zun, a bisl regn,
a ruik ort dem kop tsu legn,
abi gezunt, ken men gliklekh zayn.

a shukh a zok, a kleyd on lates,
in keshene a dray, fir zlotes,
abi gezunt, ken men gliklekh zayn.

di luft iz fray far yedn glaykh,
di zun zi shaynt far yedn eynem,
orem oder raykh.

a bisl freyd, a bisl lakhn,
a mol mit fraynd a shnepsl makhn,
abi gezunt ken men gliklekh zayn.

eyner zukht ashires,
eyner zukht gevures,
aynnemen di gantse velt.
eyner meynt dos ganse glik
hengt nor op in gelt.

zoln ale zukhn,
zoln ale krikhn,
nor ikh trakht bay mir,
ikh darf dos af kapores,
vayl dos glik shteyt bay mayn tir.



Composer: Abraham Ellstein

Length: 02:44
Genre: Yiddish Theater

Performers: Amy Goldstein, Soprano;  Elli Jaffe, Conductor;  Vienna Chamber Orchestra

Date Recorded: 10/01/2001
Venue: Baumgartner Casino (A), Vienna, Austria
Engineer: Hughes, Campbell
Assistant Engineer: Hamza, Andreas
Assistant Engineer: Weir, Simon
Project Manager: Schwendener, Paul

Additional Credits:

Publisher: Music Sales Corp.
Arrangers: Zalmen Mlotek/Paul Henning
Orchestrator: Paul Henning
Yiddish Translations/Transliterations
: Eliyahu Mishulovin & Adam J. Levitin
Arrangement © Milken Family Foundation


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