Di grine kuzine 03:25

Liner Notes

Di grine kuzine (The Greenhorn Cousin, 1921) is one of the best known in the category of “disillusionment” songs of the immigrant era. Some are inherently theatrical (such as this), while others became folksongs. Some are lighthearted and humorous despite searing denunciations, while others bespeak unalloyed dejection. The archetypal theme of these songs was a dampened enthusiasm on the part of working-class Jewish immigrants for the new country, in the face of unexpected economic hardships and sweatshop conditions—for the transatlantic rumors about “streets paved with gold” had almost seemed believable from Europe. Yet it must be acknowledged that Yiddish patriotic anthems and love songs for America also permeated those decades—on stages, in sheet music, and on records—especially from the First World War on.

Abe Schwartz was the first to copyright this tune and its lyrics (though the music copyright is only for his arrangement), but one Yankele Brisker, pseudonym for Jacob Leiserowitz, also claimed copyright for the lyrics, listing the tune as a “folk melody.” Yet a third claimant to the song was Hyman Prizant. Eventually it was republished and re-copyrighted, crediting Prizant with only the lyrics and Schwartz with the music—although again, in a particular arrangement. Meanwhile, Leiserowitz initiated a lawsuit, but did not prevail. Still, the truth about the authorship is impossible to know.

Di grine kuzine was a hit far beyond the confines of music halls. It helped catapult its publishers to a new level of prominence in the business, and it was a major boost to Schwartz’s career, gaining him and his songs access to some of New York’s major Yiddish theaters. At the same time, Di grine kuzine either spawned or accelerated a fashion of songs about “greenhorns”—a common tag for newly arrived, un-Americanized, and unadapted immigrants.

By: Neil W. Levin



Lyrics by Jacob Leiserowitz/Hyman Prizant

My cousin from the old country came over here.
She was beautiful as gold, the “greenhorn.”
Her cheeks were rosy like blood oranges;
her feet were just begging to dance.

She skipped instead of walking;
she sang instead of speaking.
Happy and merry was her demeanor.
Such was my cousin.

I went to the lady next door,
who has a little millinery store.
I got my greenhorn cousin a job there—
so long live the Golden Land!

Many years have since past.
My cousin has turned into a wreck.
She slaved away for many years
until nothing was left of her.

Under her blue, beautiful eyes
black bags have appeared.
The cheeks, those ruddy oranges,
have aged and lost their greenhorn glow.

Nowadays, when I meet my cousin
and I ask her, “How are you, greenhorn?”
She answers me with a crooked expression:
“Columbus’s land can go to hell!”

Lyrics by Jacob Leiserowitz/Hyman Prizant

es iz tsu mir gekumen a kuzine,
sheyn vi gold iz zi geven, di grine.
di bekelekh vi royte pomerantsn,
fiselekh vos betn zikh tsum tantsn.

nit gegangen iz zi, nor geshprungen;
nit geredt hot zi, nor gezungen.
freylekh, lustik iz geven ir mine.
ot azoy geven iz mayn kuzine.

ikh bin arayn tsu mayn “nekst-dorke,”
vos zi hot a “milineri-storke.”
a job gekrogn hob ikh far mayn kuzine—
az lebn zol di goldene medine!

avek zaynen fun demolt on shoyn yorn,
fun mayn kuzine iz a tel gevorn.
paydays yorn lang hot zi geklibn,
biz fun ir aleyn iz nisht geblibn.

unter ire bloye sheyne oygn
shvartse pasn hobn zikh farsoygn
di bekelekh, di royte pomerantsn,
hobn zikh shoyn oysgegrint in gantsn.

haynt, az ikh bagegn mayn kuzine,
un ikh freg zi: “vos zhe makhstu grine?”
entfert zi mir mit a krume mine:
“az brenen zol kolombuses medine!”



Composer: Abe Schwartz

Length: 03:25
Genre: Yiddish Theater

Performers: Joanne Borts, Mezzo-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:

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


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