Bei mir bist du schon (3:06)

Cover of The Andrews Sisters Greatest Hits

From The Andrews Sisters Greatest Hits and 46 other releases


According to The Yiddish Radio Project, the story of this tune’s stratospheric rise is as unlikely as that of Yiddish swing itself. “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen” was composed by Sholom Secunda for a 1932 Yiddish musical that opened and closed in one season.

Fast-forward to 1937. Lyricist Sammy Cahn and pianist Lou Levy were catching a show at the Apollo Theater in Harlem when two black performers called Johnnie and George took the stage singing “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen” — in Yiddish. The crowd went wild. Cahn and Levy couldn’t believe their ears. Sensing a hit, Cahn convinced his employer at Warner Music to purchase the rights to the song from the Kammen Brothers, the twin-team music entrepreneurs who had bought the tune from Secunda a few years back for the munificent sum of $30.

Cahn gave “Bei Mir” a set of fresh English lyrics and presented it to a trio of Lutheran sisters whose orchestra leader, oddly enough named Vic Schoen, had a notion of how to swing it. The Andrews Sisters’ debut 78 rpm for the Decca label hit almost immediately. The era of Yiddish swing had begun.

“Bei Mir” would soon be covered by virtually every pop and jazz artist of the age, and was even retranslated into French, Swedish, Russian — and German. (The song was a hit in Hitler’s Germany until the Nazi Party discovered that its composer was a Jew, and that the song’s title was Yiddish rather than a south German dialect.)


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