FULD VIDEO: Groningen 1995 -
When Linda Grant tracked down the Yiddish singing star she loved as a child, she didn't expect to find him winning over a whole new audience: young north Africans
When I was a child, on Sunday mornings the family would assemble around the blue-leather-covered gramophone to listen to records. Apart from the Light Programme, there was no music in the house during the rest of the week, and anyway, the star of my parents' collection of 78s was now heard only occasionally on the BBC. His discs, kept carefully in a cupboard in their paper wrappers, were placed on the turntable, the stylus lowered, and within a few notes we were all sobbing.For the singer, Leo Fuld, was renowned as the leading exponent of Yiddish song; he was, as it turned out, the last great Yiddish star. Einstein was said to be a fan. Fuld had had two smash hits: one was a cover of Sophie Tucker's My Yiddishe Momma, but it was the second, Wo Ahin Soll Ich Geh'n (Tell Me Where Shall I Go), that had us crying our eyes out.
Tell Me Where Shall I Go told the story in two devastating verses, sung in Yiddish and English, of a man with no country:
Where to go, where to go
Without actually stating it, Fuld was obviously talking about the hundreds of thousands of Jews in the postwar displaced persons' camps. By the second verse, he has found a home:
Now I know where to go
The words of that song and the emotions they aroused, the story of the Jewish diaspora, never left me: I could sing the whole song, on demand, and would do so whenever I tried to explain what Zionism meant to my parents' generation. When my mother died in 1999, I tried to find Leo Fuld's records, but they had been lost in a house move, or thrown away, so one day I looked him up on Google.
The internet can throw up many surprises, but none so bizarre as the fate of Leo Fuld. Just before his death in Amsterdam in 1997, he had been discovered by Mohamed el Fers, a Dutch TV producer of Algerian descent. El Fers had produced Fuld's final album, The Legend, backed by an Algerian rai band, in front of a live audience of young Moroccans. You could download a couple of tracks, and when I clicked on My Yiddishe Momma, I heard the most extraordinary sound: a fusion of Arab north Africa and Jewish eastern Europe. At 84, Fuld's voice was still fresh and the crowd was going crazy, whooping as he announces that he's going to sing My Yiddishe Momma.
I tracked down El Fers, and he told me the Leo Fuld story. He was born Lazarus Fuld in Rotterdam in 1912 and started out in the synagogue choir; at 16, he was leading services, while at night he was singing secular songs in Rotterdam's Cafe de Kool. In 1932, still only 19, he came to Britain to audition for the BBC, where he was noticed by bandleader Jack Hylton and became a radio star. Seven years later, he left for the US where he established a career as a singer of Yiddish songs, performing with Frank Sinatra. When he returned to Rotterdam after the war, his entire family - with the exception of one sister - had died in the Holocaust. In 1948, he wrote Tell Me Where Shall I Go, which became a worldwide hit.
Fuld's career had three phases, El Fers says: the British one, the American one and the French one. In the latter, he performed with Edith Piaf and is said to have discovered Charles Aznavour. In the 1950s, he began to develop an Arab audience and toured the Arab world, still performing Yiddish songs. Then he moved to Las Vegas, but in 1992, at the age of 80, his career more or less over, he returned to the Netherlands.
"I thought he was dead," El Fers told me, "but a friend said, 'He's very poor; everyone has forgotten him and he's living all alone in a tiny apartment.' I remembered the records of my childhood, so I went to interview him and we became friends. He started playing me his old records." To El Fers' ears, the cantorial music of the synagogue had an undercurrent of the Middle East.
"Nobody cared," says El Fers. "He was 82 but still going. He had a kind of nightclub orchestra which was very bad, so I put him in contact with rai music from Algeria." El Fers got Fuld working again: "He went on national television with these very young Algerian musicians and in front of an audience of young Moroccans, and they loved him. I have no idea what was the magic between them. Normally, they're very against Jews and shout about the Palestinians, but the audience wouldn't let him go."
How did they take to Tell Me Where Shall I Go, I asked him? "We were clever," he said, "and we never played that song." Fuld didn't mind: "If he could play, he would play." The song was not performed until El Fers got Fuld together with an arranger, and in 1997 they recorded The Legend.
Suddenly, Fuld was a star again. Sony gave him a contract, and he was taken to meet the Dutch royal family. Sadly, however, he died a few months after the release of The Legend, aged 84. He went out on a high, with a new following and a new wife.
The fusion of the heartfelt sounds of Yiddish and the Arab Middle East resonate still in Leo Fuld's work. People loved him because he sang from the heart. No more wandering for him.
The Legend is available from Hippo Records (www.hipporecords.nl)
Linda Grand on Thursday July 26, 2007 in The Guardian (London Newspaper)
Leo Fuld & Railand: Moishele, Mein Freind.
The Legend is available from:
Review last recording Leo Fuld produced by Mohamed el-Fers
Songlines June 2006:
Here, Lazarus Leo Fuld, the one-time king of Yiddish music, caps a 60-year career with a riveting reinvention of the old European Jewish song repertoire that the likes of Sophie Tucker and Barbra Streisand rendered such saccharine showbiz fare.
This is the Yiddish folk poetry of authors such as Mordechai Gebirtig, celebrating life in the old shtetls of Middle Europe.
Fuld, a Dutch-born one-time rabbinical student and cantor, made it his own through a career which took him from being an Amsterdam singing waiter to the star of Broadway and concert halls from Paris to Buenos Aires. Also, of course, Tunis and Cairo indeed, Oum Kalthoum attended Fulds 50s performances at the Auberge de Pyramides. And it is the submerged Middle Eastern heritage within this music that this new record makes its ace.
Arranger Kees Post has treated Fulds songs to striking new arrangements tight swathes of Oriental violin, eerie and sinuous woodwinds and accordions, and sombre double bass which bring out the pathos but not the sentimentality of Fulds light but world-weary voice and provide considerable drama. So brilliantly noir is the orchestral prelude to Fraitag oif der Nacht that its as much Fritz Lang horror film soundtrack as Sabbath party song, while the languorously menacing oboe of My Yiddishe Mama brings to mind Salomé and the head of John the Baptist as much as the dear little grey-haired chicken-soup-maker of the title.
Fuld died shortly after making
this record, which he apparently considered his crowning achievement.
Ten years after the death of Leo Fuld
If one picture is worth a thousand words, one song is worth at least a thousand pictures. The very best Yiddish songs by the King of Yiddish music! Hearing is believing! This will be the first time you'll hear Leo Fuld sing his million-sellers in this extra oriental style. Did Mordechai Gebirtig ever sound more moving as on this album? No, not another re-release of old stock, but a brand new digital recording of the instantly recognisable and attractive voice of Leo Fuld. For the first time recreating like it was in Cairo, Buenos Aires, New York, Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, Tunis, Addis Abeba, Paris... Still in great shape at the age of 84, Leo Fuld was performing on the National Holiday for Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands. This album is pure history. Recorded a few months before the King of Yiddish Music passed away. `The Legend', produced by Mohamed el-Fers, was the crown on his career.
Fuld: The Legend
and work of the late Leo Fuld
Four Wives of Leo Fuld
Fuld his last recording
The arrangers was sometimes producing and the producer was arranging to realize the best recording ever made by Leo Fuld. It's sad that this was also his very last recording. But certain one of his very best!
Odetta Clarence UKFM June 9, 2007
Never before Yiddish music sounded so oriental as on The Legend, produced by Mohamed el-Fers and arranged by Kees Post. The Legend was so refreshing after decades of being earnest and very serious about the almost lost heritage of Yiddish music. Although that great CD itself might be hard to get, due to distribution-problems. It is more than just great pearls of Yiddish music what Fuld recorded a few months before his death.
And in Dutch:
All the songs from The Legend album
MY YIDDISHE MAMA (EXTRA ORIENTAL) (Jack Yellen/Ben Pollack)
Fuld's trade-mark as it sounded in the fifties during his concerts in the Auberge des Pyramides in Cairo. It was during this time the legendary Egyptian singer Oum Kalsoum came to see Fuld. Leo surprised her by singing in Arabic, but she insisted to hear `Yiddishe Mama'. The next day Fuld rehearsed with the orchestra and when Oum Kalsoum came again he surprised her with a `Mama' in `extra oriental style'.
The song was written in 1925 by the Poland born Jack Yellen, together with drummer, vocalist, bandleader Ben Pollack. Yellen also co-wrote `Ain't She Sweet' and `Happy Day's Are Here Again'. Sophie Tucker made `Mama' a top 5 USA hit in 1928, English on one side and Yiddish on the B-side. Fuld combined both in one track and made it a hit in the rest of the world.
OIF'N WEG STEHT A BOIM (Itsik Manger)
`By the wayside stands a tree bent against the storm. All the birds have left it alone. I will become a bird and sit in the tree to comfort it during the winter with my songs. 'No, Leo', mother weeps, 'you will freeze to death in that tree. But if you must, put on your scarf and your galoshes, wear your fur hat and warm underwear.' I lift up my wings but cannot fly. All those clothes mamma puts on her weak nestling are too heavy. Sadly I gaze into my mothers eyes. Her love didn't let me become a bird.'
Many of the songs by the well-known Yiddish poet Itsik Manger (1901-1969) are based on folk songs. That was also the case with `Oif'n weg steht a boim'. A Yiddish song does not have to sound static after it is fixed as `a standard'.
MEIN SHTETELE BELZ (Jacob Jacobs/Alexander Olshanetsky)
Beltz is a moving evocation of a happy childhood spent in a shtetl:`Tell me quick, old man, now I want to know everything. How's that little house that once sparkled? Does the little tree I planted still bloom? ' But 'That little house is old, overgrown with grass, the old roof crumbles, windows are without glass, the attic is crooked, the walls bent. You'd never recognize it.'
`Belz, my little town Belz, my little home where I spend my childhood years. In that poor little house where I laughed with all the children. Every Sabbath I'd run to read by the river. Belz, where I had so many beautiful dreams.'
One of the most popular Yiddish songs depict childhood and expressed his longing for this Eastern European town. The Moldavian town Belz in Bessarabia is now called Beltsi (or Balti in Moldovan/Romanian), and is located in Bessarabia, presently the Moldova Republic in the former USSR, just about 60 km north of the Roumanian city of Yaas (now Iasi), as Bessarabia also known from a Fuld-song. In Beltz `To read by the river' must be the tributary of the Dnestr-river, who rises in Carpathians and flows 1400 km later into the Black Sea.
GRIENEN DAG (Moishe Oysher/Zalman Rozental)
`Near my town there's a little house with a green roof and many trees around. Father, mother, my sister Resele and I, all four of us live there together. Father works hard all his life and when he returns home, he sometimes brings presents: a horse that neighs named Mitsich, a dog that barks named Tsutsik. He brings a snow-white goose, and a hen that clucks, clucks until she lays an egg. Mother puts the hen over the eggs and, oh, what a `moifes', miracle! We have pretty chicks! And father brings a goat that shakes his beard, and when you put that goat before the wagon, by itself it becomes a horse! And my father, mother, Resele and I, since a long time we live happy in that little house with the green roof.'
Zalman Rozental (1892-1959) wrote the words of this song, published in 1925 as `Bay dem stetl'. Fuld recorded it on a different melody written by the famous Cantor Moishe Oysher (1906-1958) as `Grienen Dag'.
MOISHELE, MEIN FREIND (Mordechai Gebirtig)
`How are you, Moishele? You were my chabber (friend) many years ago. Remember our pranks in kheyder (religious school), and the Rebe with his stick? And how are all our other friends from these days? How often I think of them: Samele, Josele, Awremele... your sister Rochele, who was the love of Berele and hated me without reason and left me with a never healed wound in my soul. I dreamed of us as children, that I was again amidst you. But we're old Jews now...'
A few months before Fuld recorded his `Moishele' he performed on Dutch National television, accompanied by the North African rockgroup Railand. Fuld relived the sad but wonderful years of his youth. It was a sensation and he had to encore five times!
FRAITAG OIF DER NACHT (Trad. arr. C. Post)
`In my neigbourhood people lived in poverty, but tried to make some savings for the Sabbath-evening. For a little piece of meat, some wine, a merry wife and every Jew felt like a King. On Friday night singing and laughter replaced the sorrow of the day for a moment'.
After Fuld sang `Fraitag' during a party with Albert Einstein, the genius commented: `These Yiddish folksongs, why they are the most sincere, the most heartfelt I have heard anywhere? They are the truest expression of the soul of a people!'
DOS PINTELE YID (Arnold Perlmitter/Herman Wohl/Louis Gilrod)
`Little Jew, your crown is the spark of Jewishness. You suffered greatly for this, your limbs tormented, your brothers tortured, everyone bathed in your blood. Countless libels were leveled against you, still that spark remains strong...'
Probably world's most famous bar-mitzvah song. The public reading of the Torah (first five books of the Bible) is a symbol of maturity, the first demonstration of being a full member of the community. `Dos Pintele Yid' was the titlesong of a play by Boris Thomasheftsky in 1909. Words by Louis Gilrod, music by Arnold Perlmutter and Herman Wohl.
SHEIN WIE DIE LEWONE (Joseph Rumshinsky/Chaim Tauber)
`Pretty as the moon, bright as the stars, you are a heaven-sent gift to me.'
`Sure Fuld can deliver a song and for sure he's the man who kept the tradition and shaped Yiddish music into what it is today', said Chaim Tauber (1901-1972) when he first heard Leo sing his `Schein Wie Die Lewone'. The composer of this beautiful song is Joseph Rumshinsky (1881-1956).
GESSELACH (Max Kletter)
`Old houses and fences of broken boards. No money to buy anything but bread. But when the musician come to play, we're happy to throw a few `grosschen' out of the window.
That narrow `gesselach', among family and friends, in better and worse. The crooked and narrow streets, the working field of the fiddler.'
Childhood remembered in this song written by Leo's friend Max Kletter: `Max wrote it in 1942. When I returned from the USA to that little street of my European childhood, the houses were bombed by the Germans, and gone were my father, mother, brother...
Just one sister survived.'
AZ DER REBBE TANTST (Trad. arr. C. Post)
`When the Rabbi dances, all the Hassidim dance. When the Rabbi sings, all the Hassidim sing. When the Rabbi laughs, all the Hassidim laugh and when the Rabbi sleeps, all the Hassidim sleep.'
To the Hassidim, singing and dancing was like praying. Like the dervish'mystics they sought to achieve a state of ecstasy. The folksong `Az Der Rebbe Tantst' passed on through oral transmission when the young Fuld served as a sjammes in a Polish Synagogue. A variant of this song was published by Joel Engel in a children's game song in 1916.
WO AHIN SOLL ICH GEH'N (S. Korntayer/Oscar Strock/Leo Fuld)
When Edith Piaf was introduced to Leo Fuld, she approached him singing `Wo Ahin Soll Ich Geh'n'. For fourteen weeks Piaf and Fuld shared the stage of the Paris ABC-theatre. Fuld wrote the English text of `Wo Ahin Soll Ich Geh'n' in ten minutes. He made it a million-seller and later it was recorded by a few dozen others: Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Miriam Makeba...
And then, in 1997, he himself recorded this refreshing version, as if it was 1948 and Leo was singing in the Frank Sinatra'Show.
DER SIDEREL (YIDDELE BRIEDEREL) (Joseph Kammen/Louis Gilrod)
`Oppressed and persecuted, the Sider (prayerbook) is the Jew's companion and integral part of his life. Comforting as disasters are ruining lives and minds.'
This song was a big hit in the Yewish play `Der Siderel' in the thirties. It was for years on the Fuld-repertoire until the Second World War started. He never sung it again after the war until he made this beautiful recording in 1997.
A KLESMER YINGEL (OI MAMME! BIN ICH FARLIEBT) (Abe Ellstein)
`So, when a girl of good family falls in love with a travelling musician? Hold me, Mamma, when I look in his dark eyes while he's playing one of his iree songs I can't control myself.'
Abraham Ellstein (1907-1963) wrote also the music for `Yidl mit'n fidl', titlesong from the Yiddish film with the same name starring Molly Picon. `Oi Mamme! Bin Ich Farliebt' was one of Fulds hits in the late thirties.
RESELE (Mordechai Gebirtig)
`In a quiet street, in the attic of a little house lives my dear Rezele. Every evening I pass under her window, whistle and call her to come, come, come. A window opens, the old house awakens and Rezele's voice is heard: 'Wait a little, I shall soon be ready. Walk around in the street a while.' Cheerfully I walk, singing and cracking nuts, listening to the pattern of her feet skipping down the steps. I embrace and kiss her, come, come come. 'I beg you, Davidl, not to whistle anymore. Mother is upset, for it is not polite for Jewish boys to whistle. Just give me a signal in Yiddish when you call'. I won't whistle anymore. I will even become pious because of you. I will be as observant as your mother and go to the synagogue every Sabbath. 'I believe you, my dearest, and for that I shall knit you a bag for your `tefillin' with a Star of David. And if people admire it, tell them your Rezele made it for you.' I thank you for your gift. I love you dearly, Rezele. I love your mother, love the street, the little old house. I love the stones near your house since you walk on them. But listen, your mother is already calling you to come home. So cheerfully I go my way, singing and cracking nuts, listening to the pattern of her feet on the steps. Again the house and street fall silent. Come to me in my dreams, Rezel, come...'
Like `Moishele' this song is by Mordechai Gebirtig (1877-1942), one of the greatest and last Yiddish folk poets, killed by the nazi's. Fuld always loved his simple folklike songs, popular in Eastern Europe and throughout the Jewish world.
OIF'N PRIPETSHIK (Mark Warshawsky, arr. C. Post)
`Remember children, what you're learning here. Say and repeat it over again: the letter `kometz Alef' is pronounced: O. When you grow older you'll understand that this alphabet contains the tears and weeping of our people.'
Leo Fuld was admitted to kheyder from the age of four. In this dimly lit but well-heated schoolroom the seeds of learning were planted. The Rabbi teaches the children the first letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
The song is written by Mark Warshawsky, a discovery of Sholom Aleichem. In 1953 Fuld gave a concert in the local foundouq of el-Ghriba during the Lag B'Omer Festival. He sung to celebrate that 2500 years ago a cedarwood door from the Temple was brought from Jerusalem to Tunisia. This is a reconstruction of that hot Tunisian night, when Fuld was accompanied by the kapelle of Yacub B'chiri.
Albert Einstein about the King of Yiddish music...
`These Yiddish folksongs, why they are the most sincere, the most heartfelt I have heard anywhere? They are the truest expression of the soul of a people!'
The Sgt Pepper of Yiddish music
Singer-songwriter Leo Fuld, who was called the last performer of the Yiddish popular ballads, died in Amsterdam in 1997 after an extended international career. He recorded a few months before his death ´The Sgt. Pepper of Yiddish Music´.
It's a `moifes', a miracle! It's pure history:
Leo was alive and kicking til the very last day and was accompanied during his last television-performance by an Algerian Rai-band.
Video´s and films with the King of Yiddish music...:
Other recordings of the King of Yiddish music...
Seeco CELP 420 (Popular)
Jeweler Sidney Siegel reportedly in 1943 poured the assets of his Casa Siegel jewelry store into the founding of a record label and launched a full-fledged American operation, Seeco Records and its sister label Tropical. Seeco was a "world music" label long before the term had been coined and the direct forerunner of present-day companies like Putumayo and Island Records. The label's top-selling artists included Vicentico Valdés, singer with Tito Puente's orchestra, Celia Cruz and the King of Yiddish Music Leo Fuld.
Sony CD Shalom Israel
During World War II, while Fuld was living in the U.S., he lost nearly his entire family. Until his death he was not able to discuss that topic with his remaining sister and nieces. In his simple apartment in Amsterdam, the singer was still writing songs and felt all but lonely: "I never get tired of my own company." In the last year of his life, at the age of 84 he recorded what is considered the Sgt. Pepper of Yiddish Music: The Legend. History is understood, more fully comprehended, through the pearls of Yiddish music as sung by the truly great interpreter of the genre: Lazarus AKA Leo Fuld (1912-1997).
to the throne meets the legend
The heir to the Dutch throne, the Prince of Orange William Alexander von Amsberg (left), and the King of Yiddish music Leo Fuld. The Prince of Orange was very impressed that the singer at the age of 84 performed with te North African rockgroup Railand (with Ahmed Bouhaous on keyboard!) on national television. William Alexander´s favorite song was ´Oif´n weg steht a boim´ from the cd The Legend.
Legend Leo Fuld and the late Prince Claus
The Daily Herald, Monday 15 Oct/34, pg. 10 gives an account of the concerts Leo Fuld gave with Jack Hylton & Band at the London Palladium. Fuld is surrounded by 16 Palladium Girls. In the same show the 4 Ink Spots(1st time in London), 3 Gaylors, Dave & Joe OGormon, Bernice & Emily, Hazel Mangean Girls, Tessie OShea and Alec Templeton. More on http://inkspots.ca/ACTIVITIES-34-40.htm
1956 B'Ein Moledet
In 1956 Fuld was the producer
and co-writer of "B'Ein
Moledet" together with director by Nuri Habib. The Cast (in alphabetical
order) was Amos Arikha, Sa'adia Damari, Shoshana Damari, Ethan Freiber,
Ezra Levi, Amnon Mingen, Avraham Omer, Shaike Ophir, Ethan Ovadiah and
Kadouri Shaharbani. Original Music by Moshe Wilensky. Choreographer was
Vera Goldman and cinematography by Nuri Koukou. Film Editing by Nuri Habib
and Nuri Koukou