Bei Mir Bistu Shein

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"Bei Mir Bist Du Shein"
Published November 24, 1937 (1937-11-24)
Composer Sholom Secunda
Lyricist Sammy Cahn & Saul Chaplin
Language English
Recorded by Andrews Sisters

"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".[1] The original Yiddish version of the song (in C minor) is a dialogue between two lovers who share lines of the song.

The fame[edit]

Original poster of the show, in Yiddish. New York, 1938

The song became famous with an English lyric but retaining the Yiddish title, "Bei Mir Bistu Shein". It also appeared with a Germanized title "Bei mir bist du schön". The pronunciation of the schein/schön in the title has occasionally been a source of controversy. The majority of performers, including native German speakers such as Max Raabe, have adopted the Yiddish pronunciation [ʃeːn] ("sheyn") rather than the standard German [ʃøːn] (approximately "shən", with lips rounded for the ö).

In 1937, Sammy Cahn heard a performance of the song, sung in Yiddish by African-American performers Johnnie and George at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York City. Grossinger's Catskill Resort Hotel proprietor Jenny Grossinger claimed to have taught the song to Johnnie and George while they were performing at the resort.[2] On seeing the response, Cahn got his employer to buy the rights so he (together with Saul Chaplin) could rewrite the song with an English lyric and rhythms more typical of swing music. Secunda sold the publishing rights to the song for a mere US$30 which later he split with Jacobs. Cahn then persuaded the still unknown Andrews Sisters to perform the song (recorded November 24, 1937). It became their first major hit, earning them a gold record, the first ever to a female vocal group. It was also a worldwide hit.

Over time, the song grossed some $3 million, with Secunda and Jacobs missing significant royalties. In 1961, the copyright on the song expired, and the ownership reverted to Secunda and Jacobs, who signed a contract with Harms, Inc., securing proper royalties.[3]

Other versions[edit]

There have been several songs with the tune in the Soviet Union. In particular, in 1943, a Russian-language song for the music was produced with satirical anti-Nazi lyrics titled "Baron von der Pshik" ("Барон фон дер Пшик") by Anatoli Fidrovsky, music arrangement by Orest Kandat.[4] Initially it was recorded by the jazz orchestra (director Nikolay Minkh) of the Baltic Fleet Theatre;[5] later it was included into the repertoire of Leonid Utyosov's jazz orchestra.[4]

Japanese figure skating phenom Mao Asada chose the Janis Siegel version for her short program for the 2015-2016 figure skating season.

In Nazi Germany it was also a hit until its Jewish origins were discovered, at which point it was promptly banned.[6]

In the late Soviet period, a similar version came out under the name "In the Cape Town Port", lyrics to which was written by another Jewish national and a native of Leningrad, Pavel Gandelman. That Soviet song was performed by a Russian singers Larisa Dolina and Arkady Severny.

There is a Swedish version called "Bär ner mig till sjön", which means "Carry me down to the lake".

Towards the end of the Taxi episode "The Costume Party", Latka, Alex and Tony (dressed as the Andrews Sisters) are singing this tune.

The song is performed by Renata Flores in the 1980 film The Last Metro and by Janis Siegel in the 1993 film Swing Kids.[7]

Shasta Beverage Company adapted the song for a 1976 T.V. advertisement for its root beer ("it's root beer, Mr. Shane ...").

Gemma Ray covered this song on her 2010 record It's A Shame About Gemma Ray.

In November 2011, the Azerbaijani pop singer Ilhama Gasimova released her single Bei Mir Bist Du Sheen, featuring DJ OGB.[8]

For the one hundredth birthday of Sammy Cahn, a special arrangement of this song was made by Dean Groves for the American Classics album, "It's Magic" [9]

Bette Midler covered the song for her 2014 album It's the Girls!.

Brazilian vocal trio Cluster Sisters covered the song on their self-titled debut album in 2015.

The song was also included in the hit video game BioShock.

Recorded versions[edit]

In addition to the original (or modified/translated) lyrics, a number of songs are known which borrowed only the popular tune of Bei Mir..., with completely unrelated text.










  • Ilhama Gasimova with DJ OGB, a 2009 pop recording based on the Andrews Sisters' English version at higher speed and without the introductory section.[8]















  • Zarah Leander with Einar Groth's orchestra. Swedish lyrics: Tage Tall. Recorded on April 21, 1938. Released on a 78 rpm record by Odeon as catalog number D 2978, SA 255 956[25]


External links[edit]