|Samet un zayd
More than one song titled Samet un zayd (Velvet and Silk) was written to the same set of lyrics by Louis Gilrod and associated with various productions and versions of the same musical show, Hayntike meydlekh (The Girls of Today), with a book by William Siegel. The best known of these songs, whose melody is attributed to Herman Wohl and which is recorded here, was sung by Jennie Goldstein, one of the towering stars of Yiddish melodrama, in that show’s 1924 production at Max Gabel’s Peoples Theater in New York. The production was advertised as a “drama of present-day life.” The song’s English title was given as Silks and Satin, probably for its more attractive alliteration. Wohl was credited as the principal composer of the show for that production. But Olshanetsky’s name in particular was prominently associated with other productions of this show, which were sometimes staged under the name Samet un zayd and also involved other composers and lyricists, and his hand in this song remains in question. The music for another extant song of the same name was attributed to the now unidentifiable team of Reuben Osofsky and Jacob Mushnitsky, yet the two chorus (refrain) melodies are suspiciously similar.
The play urges caution for young women in responding to social temptations in “the new American life.” It is a warning to guard against seduction by unscrupulous men with less than honorable intentions who, for the sake of conquest, will lavish material gifts on unsuspecting women—the “velvets and silks” version of Hollywood’s diamonds and furs. This was a recurring theme in many songs and plays of that period. As a corollary, Hayntike meydlekh also stresses the dangers of misplaced priorities and misguided values as criteria for young women. “A cheap dress and a virtuous girl, people admire,” admonishes the singer of Samet un zayd. Some advertisements even implored mothers to bring their daughters to the show. The plot has elements of drug addiction, sexual exploitation, abandonment, and redemption through love, but not before it is too late for one of the victims.
Samet un zayd does not advance the action of the plot or pertain uniquely to any one role. As an independent encapsulation of the overall message, it was even subtitled “the song with a moral.” Its assignment to a particular character—which has included male as well as female singers in various productions—and its moment within the play are left to the discretion of the director, whose decision might be informed by his own dramatic conception or by the available vocal gifts within any particular cast. In the 1924 Peoples Theater production, Tessie (played by Jennie Goldstein) sang it in the second act, after arriving at a hospital, drugged, demoralized, and near death.
By: Neil W. Levin
Lyrics by Louis Gilrod
A pretty, innocent girl from a poor family
blossoms like a pretty flower.
She gives herself to a wealthy man,
for she longs for glamour and grandeur.
The rich man buys her innocence for a velvet dress
and her love for a silk blouse.
He breaks her spirit
and satisfies his passions;
then he deserts her.
Velvet and silk cannot heal
the pain and suffering of tormented souls.
How terrible to sell virtue,
to lose one’s youth for velvet and silk.
What good are silks that bring suffering?
They utterly destroy innocence.
A cheap dress and a virtuous girl,
people admire more
than velvet and silk.
The ambulance is at the hospital
late at night
carrying a girl elegantly adorned.
Her fate drove her to drink poison,
for a rich man had seduced her.
She was dressed in velvet and silk.
Her face, however, was as pale as chalk.
When the night glimpsed the break of day,
she was already dead—
falling prey to velvet and silk.
Lyrics by Louis Gilrod
a meydl, sheyn un umshuldik, fun oremen shtand,
blit vi a sheyne blum.
git zikh iber tsu a raykhn man in hant,
vayl zi dursht nokh glants un rum.
der raykher koyft ir umshuld far a samet kleyd,
ir libe far a zaydn hemd.
er farshvundt ir lebnzaft,
er shtilt zayn laydnshaft,
dan vert er tsu ir gor fremd.
samet un zayd ken nit farheyln
di shmerts un layd fun kranke zeyln.
vi biter klugnt farkoyft di tugnt
farshpilt di yugnt far samet un zayd.
vos toygn zaydn, vos brengen laydn?
di umshuld shnaydn zey tsum toyt.
a bilike kleydl, nor an erlikh meydl,
dos iz mer geshetst bay lay ,
vi samet un zayd.
der ambulans in hospital
hot shpet bay nakht
gebrakht a meydl sheyn fartsirt.
gift tsu trinken hot der shikzal ir gebrakh ,
vayl a raykher man hot ir farfirt.
in samet un in zayd iz zi geven bakleyd,
ir ponem, ober, blas vi kreyd.
ven di nakht hot dem tog derzen
iz zi shoyn toyt geven,
a korbn fun samet un zayd.
Composer: Herman Wohl
Genre: Yiddish Theater
Amy Goldstein, Soprano;
Elli Jaffe, Conductor;
Vienna Chamber Orchestra
Date Recorded: 10/01/2001
Venue: Baumgartner Casino (B), Vienna, Austria
Engineer: Hughes, Campbell
Assistant Engineer: Weir, Simon
Project Manager: Schwendener, Paul
Arrangers: Patrick Russ with Zalment Mlotek
Orchestrator: Frank Bennett
Yiddish Translations/Transliterations: Eliyahu Mishulovin & Adam J. Levitin
Arrangement © Milken Family Foundation