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  • Bei Mir Bistu Shein Though Time

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on April 3rd, 2016 (All posts by )

    From Wiki:

    “Bei Mir Bistu Shein” (Yiddish: בײַ מיר ביסטו שיין‎, “To Me You’re Beautiful”) is a popular Yiddish song composed by Jacob Jacobs (lyricist) and Sholom Secunda (composer) for a 1932 Yiddish comedy musical, I Would If I Could (in Yiddish, Men Ken Lebn Nor Men Lost Nisht, “You could live, but they don’t let you”), which closed after one season at the Parkway Theatre in Brooklyn, New York City. The score for the song transcribed the Yiddish title as “Bay mir bistu sheyn”. The original Yiddish version of the song (in C minor) is a dialogue between two lovers.

    Prewar Swedish:

    Janis Siegel with Louis Prima’s band for the movie Swing Kids, 1993.  From Wiki:

    The name Swing Kids is a translation of the German Swingkinder, which was a sort of parody of the numerous youth groups that flourished before the National Socialists.  During the Nazi regime, many of the youth in Germany (ages 10 to 17) were encouraged to join the Hitler Youth. The leaders of this organization realized they had to offer some attraction in the area of social dancing in order to recruit new members. Instead of adopting the popular swing dance (because it was viewed as degenerate and tied to the “damnable jazz’), they resorted to the new-German community dances.
    This proved to be unsuccessful, because instead of embracing the Hitler Youth pastimes, city girls and boys crowded the swing dance joints. This seemed to be the case particularly in the town of Hamburg, where the swing scene was huge. These teenage hoppers were known as “Swing–Heinis”, a name the authorities called them.

    The UK based Puppini Sisters from their 2007 CD Betcha Bottom Dollar:

    A Capella:

    From the Netherlands, Zazi’s 2010 version:



    9 Responses to “Bei Mir Bistu Shein Though Time”

    1. Richard Says:

      All sweet, great song, but not any Andrews Sisters?

    2. Richard Says:

      Shouldn’t the women sing “I could say BELLO-BELLO . . .” (gender theory aside)?

    3. TangoMan Says:

      Swing Kids was a great movie for people who appreciate dance. Coming from that world, I thought I’d offer up this clip of a couple dancing to this song.

      Here’s some boogie woogie

      And for those who appreciate the talents of piano players

    4. Stephen Says:

      The “Prewar Swiss” version by Zarah Leander is actually in Swedish.

    5. Jonathan Says:

      I vote for the Berry sisters.

    6. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      The “Prewar Swiss” version by Zarah Leander is actually in Swedish.

      Whoops! Swiss, Swedish, same thing pretty much, right? Corrected, thanks.

    7. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      Wow, Kevin and Carla, what great dancers.

    8. Robert Schwartz Says:

      “Bei Mir Bistu Shein” is a transliteration of the Hebrew characters next to it. Yiddish is a German dialect written in Hebrew letters.

      Modern German is written in roman characters, with some diacritics, especially umlauts over vowels.

      The YouTube video titles write the title of the song the way a German would write those words in modern German.

      Bistu is really two words bist & du. Bist is the second person singular form of “to be” (sein) and “du” is the second person singular pronoun. Shein is the transliteration of the Yiddish transliteration of the German schön (beautiful), which should be written schoen if you can’t use umlauts in your character set.

      I am reciting all of this because, I know a few little bits of Yiddish, but I learned them orally from older members of my family. I never saw them written in Hebrew script. But, I did take German in College. So, whenever I hear or want to say Yiddish words, I tend to think of them as being written the way German is written. It can take a bit of effort for me to track down the correct transliteration of the Yiddish words.

      I am not sure that anyone could talk the people still interested in Yiddish into transliterating it into roman in the same way Germans do. Bad history, you know.

    9. TangoMan Says:

      Wow, Kevin and Carla, what great dancers.

      check out the 2nd video. What I admire about professional musicians is how they can play their instrument while shifting their attention elsewhere. Check out that piano player, he’s playing the boogie woogie while watching the two dancers for long stretches of time. He’s keeping time, he has the music memorized, he’s hitting the keys without looking, and he’s appreciating the dance moves of the couple. Hats off, that is impressive skill.