Dona, Dona

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"Dana Dana
(Yiddish original)"
Song
Published 1941
Writer(s) Sholom Secunda, Aaron Zeitlin
Language Yiddish
"Dona Dona
(English version)"
Song
Published mid-1950s
Genre Folk music
Writer(s) Sholom Secunda, Aaron Zeitlin. English lyrics by Arthur Kevess and Teddi Schwartz
Language English

"Dona Dona" popularly known as "Donna, Donna" is a song about a calf being led to slaughter written by Sholom Secunda and Aaron Zeitlin. Originally a Yiddish language song "Dana Dana" (in Yiddish דאַנאַ דאַנאַ), also known as "Dos Kelbl" (in Yiddish דאָס קעלבל meaning The Calf) it was a song used in a Yiddish play produced by Zeitlin. In Hebrew, it is known as "Lama Dona"[citation needed].

History[edit]

"Dana Dana" was written for the Aaron Zeitlin stage production Esterke[1] (1940–41) with music composed by Sholom Secunda. The lyrics, score, parts, and associated material are available online in the Yiddish Theater Digital Archives.[2] The lyric sheet is in typewritten Yiddish[3] and handwritten Yiddish lyrics also appear in the piano score.[4] The text underlay in the score and parts is otherwise romanized in a phonetic transcription that appears oriented toward stage German.[5][6] The YIVO standardized transliteration system[7] was not then in widespread use, and many Yiddish transliterations looked like German, to which the Yiddish language is closely related.

The orchestra plays the "Dana Dana" melody at several points in Esterke. The original is 2/4, in G minor for a duo of a man and a woman, choral with the orchestral accompaniment. Secunda wrote "Dana-" for the orchestral score and "Dana Dana" for the vocal scores. The Yiddish text was written with Roman alphabet. He wrote for the choral score "andantino" (somewhat slowly) and "sempre staccato" (play staccato always). The melody of the introduction was also used at the end of the song. He wrote "piu mosso" (more rapidly) for the refrain and some passages that emphasize the winds. First, a woman (Secunda wrote "she") sings four bars and then the man (Secunda wrote "he") sings the next four. They sing together from the refrain. Although singing the third part of "Dana Dana" (="Dana Dana Dana Dana...") the man sometimes sings lower than the melody using disjunct motions. The melody is refrained. Then "he" sings the melody, and "she" sometimes sings "Dana", other times sings "Ah" with a high voice or technical passage. Secunda wrote "molto rit." (suddenly much more slowly) for the ending of the first verse. There are some differences between the original and the melody that are well known. Secunda wrote "ha ha ha" for the choral score with the broken chords.

Versions[edit]

"Donna Donna"
Single by Joan Baez
from the album Joan Baez
A-side House of the Rising Sun
B-side Donna, Donna
Released 1960
Recorded 1960
Genre Folk music
Length 3:15 or 3:09
Label Vanguard
Writer(s) English lyrics by Arthur Kevess and Teddi Schwartz
"Donna Donna"
Single by Claude François
from the album Donna Donna / Les choses de la maison
A-side Donna, Donna
B-side Du Pain et du beurre / Je sais / Les cloches sonnaient
Released 1964-1965
Recorded 1964
Genre Folk music
Length 2:32
Label Philips
Writer(s) French lyrics by Vline Buggy, Claude François
"Donna Donna"
Single by Donovan
from the album What's Bin Did and What's Bin Hid
A-side Donna, Donna
B-side Car Car / (alternatively) Josie
Released 1965
Recorded 1965
Genre Folk music
Length 2:56
"Donna Donna"
Single by C4
A-side Donna, Donna
Released 1998
Recorded 1998
Genre Dance music / disco
Length 3:31
Writer(s) French lyrics by Vline Buggy, Claude François
Secunda's English version

Secunda translated "Dana Dana" into English language (changing the vocalization of 'dana' to 'dona'), but this version didn't gain much attention.

Joan Baez version

The lyrics were translated once again in the mid-1950s, this time by Arthur Kevess and Teddi Schwartz, and the song became well known with their text.

It became especially popular after being recorded by Joan Baez in 1960 in her self-titled album Joan Baez. In her version, the song is retitled "Donna, Donna" (doubling the n"). This became very popular and later versions also used the double "n". The song became a staple of Baez and used in the human rights protest movement in the 1960s.

Claude François version

In 1964, the song was recorded in French language by French singer Claude François as "Donna, Donna" reaching the top of the French Singles Charts for two consecutive weeks in December 1964. François co-wrote the French lyrics with Vline Buggy. The song also known by its longer title "Donna, Donna (Le Petit Garçon)" is a completely revamped version lyricwise, as it no longer describes a helpless calf being led to its slaughter, as in the original Yiddish version, but is rather about the troubles of an aspiring young boy growing up dreaming about his own future. In the last verse, in an autobiographical twist, Claude François alludes to himself by singing the verse as "ce petit garçon que j'étais" (this small boy that I was...).

Donovan version

Very soon after the Claude François version, the Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan recorded another very popular cover version of Baez in 1965 in English. The track appeared in Donovan's album What's Bin Did and What's Bin Hid. The title is also "Donna, Donna", thus reenforcing further the popular "Donna" rather than the original transliteration "Dona".

Hebrew version

"Dana Dana" has been translated from Yiddish into Hebrew as "Lama Dona" and interpreted by Rika Zaraï. Zaraï went on also to launch a French oriental dance version in her album Hava.

Translations

The song was recorded in many other languages as well including German, French, Swedish, Japanese, Hebrew, Russian, Italian, and Vietnamese.

Covers[edit]

(Selective)

Yiddish

The song has been recorded in original Yiddish lyrics amongst others by:

The German folk ensemble Zupfgeigenhansel interpreted it as part of their 1978 album Jiddische Lieder ('ch Hob Gehert Sogn) (as "Dos Kelbi"[8] with lyrics from Jtschak Katsenelson)[8]

English

The most famous recordings in English language include those by Joan Baez and Donovan. But there are also versions by:

  • English duo Chad & Jeremy (Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde) covered it in 1965 on their album Yesterday's Gone - A Golden Classics Edition on Columbia Records. It was a B-side to their single "If I Loved You" making it to number 23 on Billboard Hot 100.
  • Israeli folk duo Esther & Abi Ofarim recorded their version in 1966 in English
  • Actress and performer Patty Duke "Dona, Dona" in her album Patty Duke Sings Folk Songs on United Artists in 1968, but it remained unreleased.
  • Swedish band Ola & the Janglers covered it in English in as Side B of their single in 1966[9]
  • Mocedades, a Spanish-Basque singing group covered it in English in 1969
  • Mary Hopkins covered it live during Expo '70 concert in Osaka, Japan
  • In 1974, Filipino folk singer Wee Gee covered it in English naming her album Donna, Donna as well
French
  • The song was covered in French by Claude François[10]. His version topped the French Singles Chart for 1964. Because of the popularity of his version, in 1965 he released his album Donna Donna / Les choses de la maison making "Donna, Donna" the title track.
  • Dorothée and Hélène interpreted it in French as a duo on the inaugural edition of Rock'n'roll Show broadcast on prime time on TF1 in the autumn of 1993.[11]
  • In 1998, the French boyband C4 released a French dance version as "Donna, Donna"[12] on Polygram having a minor hit on French Singles Charts reaching number 25 and staying 12 weeks on the chart.[9]
  • Les Stentors a French 4-member super vocal group covered it in their self-titled 2010 debut album Les Stentors
Others

In popular culture[edit]

The song was used in soundtrack of the 2005 Indonesian film Gie by Riri Riza about the story of activist Soe Hok Gie.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Esterke". Jewishvirtuallibrary.org. Retrieved 2015-07-13. 
  2. ^ "Esterke". 2ndave.nyu.edu. 2005-05-13. Retrieved 2015-07-13. 
  3. ^ "Photographic version of sheet music incorporating melody and lyrics - Part I" (JPG). 2ndave.nyu.edu. Retrieved 2015-07-13. 
  4. ^ "Photographic version of sheet music incorporating melody and lyrics - Part II" (JPG). 2ndave.nyu.edu. Retrieved 2015-07-13. 
  5. ^ "Photographic version of sheet music incorporating melody and lyrics - Part III" (JPG). 2ndave.nyu.edu. Retrieved 2015-07-13. 
  6. ^ "Photographic version of sheet music incorporating melody and lyrics - Part IV" (JPG). 2ndave.nyu.edu. Retrieved 2015-07-13. 
  7. ^ "Yiddish Transliteration and Spelling | YIVO transliteration chart for Yiddish alphabet | Yiddish Spelling Guidelines". Yiddishwit.com. Retrieved 2015-07-13. 
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Lescharts.com: C4 - "Donna, Donna" song page

External links[edit]