|Writer(s)||Sholom Secunda, Aaron Zeitlin|
|Writer(s)||Sholom Secunda, Aaron Zeitlin. English lyrics by Arthur Kevess and Teddi Schwartz|
"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".
"Dana Dana" was written for the Aaron Zeitlin stage production Esterke (1940–41) with music composed by Sholom Secunda. The lyrics, score, parts, and associated material are available online in the Yiddish Theater Digital Archives. The lyric sheet is in typewritten Yiddish and handwritten Yiddish lyrics also appear in the piano score. The text underlay in the score and parts is otherwise romanized in a phonetic transcription that appears oriented toward stage German. The YIVO standardized transliteration system 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.
|Single by Joan Baez|
|from the album Joan Baez|
|A-side||House of the Rising Sun|
|Length||3:15 or 3:09|
|Writer(s)||English lyrics by Arthur Kevess and Teddi Schwartz|
|Single by Claude François|
|from the album Donna Donna / Les choses de la maison|
|B-side||Du Pain et du beurre / Je sais / Les cloches sonnaient|
|Writer(s)||French lyrics by Vline Buggy, Claude François|
|Single by Donovan|
|from the album What's Bin Did and What's Bin Hid|
|B-side||Car Car / (alternatively) Josie|
|Single by C4|
|Genre||Dance music / disco|
|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 reinforcing 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.
The song has been recorded in original Yiddish lyrics amongst others by:
- Nechama Hendel (YouTube video)
- Chava Alberstein (YouTube video)
- Theodore Bikel (YouTube video)
- Sumi Jo (YouTube video)
- Karsten Troyke (YouTube video)
- Moni Ovadia (YouTube video).
- 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 (YouTube video)
- 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
- The song was covered in French by Claude François (YouTube video). 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. (YouTube video)
- In 1998, the French boyband C4 released a French dance version as "Donna, Donna" (YouTube video) on Polygram having a minor hit on French Singles Charts reaching number 25 and staying 12 weeks on the chart.
- Les Stentors a French 4-member super vocal group covered it in their self-titled 2010 debut album Les Stentors
In popular culture
The song was also used in the soundtrack for the 1997 Japanese anime series Revolutionary Girl Utena - specifically in episode 16, "Cowbell of Hapiness" in which the character of Nanami turns into a cow by wearing an enchanted cowbell which she mistakes for haute couture jewelry.
- "Esterke". Jewishvirtuallibrary.org. Retrieved 2015-07-13.
- "Esterke". 2ndave.nyu.edu. 2005-05-13. Retrieved 2015-07-13.
- "Photographic version of sheet music incorporating melody and lyrics - Part I" (JPG). 2ndave.nyu.edu. Retrieved 2015-07-13.
- "Photographic version of sheet music incorporating melody and lyrics - Part II" (JPG). 2ndave.nyu.edu. Retrieved 2015-07-13.
- "Photographic version of sheet music incorporating melody and lyrics - Part III" (JPG). 2ndave.nyu.edu. Retrieved 2015-07-13.
- "Photographic version of sheet music incorporating melody and lyrics - Part IV" (JPG). 2ndave.nyu.edu. Retrieved 2015-07-13.
- "Yiddish Transliteration and Spelling | YIVO transliteration chart for Yiddish alphabet | Yiddish Spelling Guidelines". Yiddishwit.com. Retrieved 2015-07-13.
- Zupfgeigenhansel – Jiddische Lieder ('ch Hob Gehert Sogn) (1979) album releases & credits at Discogs.com
- Lescharts.com: C4 - "Donna, Donna" song page