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Friday, November 12, 2010

The Fabulous Barry Sisters!! שװעסטער באַרי

The Barry Sisters/שװעסטער באַרי 

Born in the Bronx, New York, Clara and Minnie Bagelman were first known as the Bagelman Sisters. As Claire and Myrna Barry they were popular Yiddish jazz singers in the 1940s-1960s who performed on the New York Radio Show "Yiddish Melodies in Swing", where they would sing jazz recordings in the Yiddish language. They also would record popular tunes, such as "Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head" translated into Yiddish. During the height of their popularity, they even made appearances on the Ed Sullivan and Jack Paar shows and were one of the few American acts to tour the Soviet Union in 1959.  The Barry Sisters also recorded with other noted Jewish singers such as Barbra Streisand and Moishe Oysher.

The Barry Sisters are thought to be the inspiration for the Saturday Night Live skit, "The Sweeney Sisters," in which Jan Hooks and Nora Dunn portrayed a sister cabaret act. Mark Shaiman did the musical arrangements for those sketches.

Myrna Barry was born in 1925 and died in 1976. Claire Barry, born in 1923, continues to sing and perform, and was recently featured in the NPR radio show, "Yiddish Melodies in Swing."

The duo's 11th and final album, "My Way," was issued in 1973


The Rise of Yiddish Swing

Yiddish swing. Jazz and klezmer. It may sound like an odd combination, but in late 1937 this mix of Old World and New took the music scene here and abroad by storm. The fad got its start when the Andrews Sisters, a young three-sibling act fresh from Minnesota, recorded an irresistible swing version of a forgotten Yiddish stage tune. "Bei Mir Bist du Schoen" (You Are Beautiful to Me) became an instantaneous hit, spawning an unending series of covers and, with them, a musical trend.

Within weeks, executives at New York's WHN had created Yiddish Melodies in Swing, a weekly program dedicated to the new musical fusion. The talented pianist/composer Sam Medoff was hired to lead the show's “Swingtet” and to arrange rollicking versions of traditional Jewish folk and klezmer tunes like "Dayenu," "Eli Meylakh," and "Yidl Mitn Fidl."

Front and center on Medoff's bandstand were the Barry Sisters (née Bagelman), whose close-as-air harmonies, spunky energy, and seamless transitions from Yiddish to English packed New York's 600-seat Loews State Theater every Sunday at 1 p.m. But Yiddish Melodies didn't just mainstream Yiddish culture, it reconnected a younger generation of American Jews to an older musical tradition embodied by the Swingtet's legendary clarinetist, Dave Tarras, a European-born klezmer musician with almost no equal.

Yiddish Melodies in Swing lasted nearly two decades, outliving swing, the golden age of radio, and almost Yiddish culture itself. Small wonder that the 26 surviving episodes of the show are as fresh today as they were on the Sunday afternoons when they aired.
"Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen"

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.)

The song's success also sparked frenzied searches for other Yiddish crossover hits. Some attempts, like "Joseph, Joseph" ("Yosl, Yosl"), by the team of Chaplin and Cahn for the Andrews, and "My Little Cousin" ("Di Grine Kuzine"), by Benny Goodman, found modest success. But no Yiddish song would ever hit it as big again.

Sammy Cahn claimed that he bought his mother a house with money earned from "Bei Mir." For her part, the mother of Sholom Secunda visited the synagogue every day for a quarter century to ask God for forgiveness, certain that he was punishing her son for a sin she had committed.

Tarras and Brandwein

Dave Tarras, the Yiddish Melodies in Swing clarinetist, was brought up in the world of klezmer, the traditional instrumental music of Eastern European Jews. But he was no stranger to the New World technology of radio.

Apart from his longstanding gig on Yiddish Melodies in Swing, Tarras was the musical director of the low-power WBBC (Brooklyn Broadcasting Company), where he played old-fashioned bulgars and sweet waltzes between programs, tailoring the name of his ensemble to whoever was footing the bill. His band could start the afternoon as Dave Tarras and the WBBC Ensemble, transform fifteen minutes later into Dave Tarras and the Breakstone Ensemble, and round out the hour as Dave Tarras and the Stanton Street Clothiers Ensemble.

Key to Tarras's success were his extraordinary music reading ability and his capacity to show up to a gig sober and on time. Neither quality was shared by Tarras's chief rival, Naftule Brandwein -- the other leading contender for the title of the twentieth century's greatest klezmer clarinetist.

Brandwein was Tarras's opposite in almost every respect. Unable to read a note of music, he preferred the poker table to the bandstand and the liquor bottle to just about everything else. Onstage he wore an Uncle Sam outfit wrapped in Christmas lights, which blew up one night as his perspiration got out of hand. His playing was as rough and wild as his temperament, laced with elements of Greek, Turkish, and Gypsy music.

Brandwein was a fearless musician, always teetering on the edge of disaster. A favorite of Murder Incorporated, for whom he performed in a famed hideaway behind a Brooklyn candy store, the talented iconoclast left a lasting mark on the development of klezmer music.

Aficionados of the genre argue to this day about which of the two klezmer masters, Tarras or Brandwein, was the greatest. As far as who was better suited to radio, history long ago passed definitive judgment.

Ok......Yiddish swing......Seriously. I've been into the Barry Sisters since like high school....I actually have each of the LPs in here. So...what else is left to say but...dig this...their harmonies.....I mean...enjoy :)

(A note about titles, here..............**I obtained copies of my old LPs in digital format online and a lot of the titles were incorrectly my notes with the track lists, below, I have included the correct Yiddish spellings, as much as I possibly could....hopefully my spelling is correct** please let me know if you find mistakes in it..........THANKS!!)

Around the world -From  "Side By Side" 1961
Mayn Shtetele Belz-From  "The Barry Sisters sing" 1954 מײַן שטעטעלע בעלז
Farges mikh nit -From "At Home" 1959 פֿאַרגעס מיך ניט
Cry me a river -From  "Side By Side" 1961
A Brivele Der Mamen - From " Live In Israel" 1962 אַ בריוועלע דער מאַמען
Eyn Kuk Oyf Dir -From "Shalom" 1962 אײן קוק אױף דיר
Beyt Mikh A Bisele Mame -From  "The Barry Sisters sing" 1954 בײט מיך אַ ביסעלע מאַמע
Campanitas De Cristal -From "Something Spanish" 1966
Ciao Ciao Bambino -From "Something Spanish" 1966
Do you love me
-From "Fiddler on the roof" 1964
A Kholem -From " Live In Israel" 1962 אַ חלום (פֿישער)
Conversido estoy -From "Something Spanish" 1966
Ay ay Hora -From "At Home" 1959 אײַ אײַ האָרע
A Khasene -From " Live In Israel" 1962 אַ חתונה (שװעסטער באַרי)
Bill Bailey won't you please come home -From  "Side By Side" 1961
Exodus -From "Shalom" 1962
Far from the home I love -From "Fiddler on the roof" 1964
Gis gis gis -From "A Time To Remember" 1967 גיס גיס גיס
Abi Gezunt -From "The Barry Sisters sing" 1954 אַבי געזונט
Autumn leaves - From "Side By Side" 1961
Chiribim Chiribom -From "Shalom" 1962
Eyshes Khayil -From "At Home" 1959 אשת חיל (ליליאַן, רומשינסקי)
Fascination -From "Side By Side" 1961
Anatevka -From "Fiddler on the roof" 1964
El dia -From "Something Spanish" 1966
Der Alter Tsigayner -From "The Barry Sisters sing" 1954 דער אַלטער ציגײַנער
Git Mir Op Mazl Tov -From "Shalom" 1962 גיט מיר אָפּ מזל טובֿ
Di Grine Kuzine -From "Shalom" 1962 די גרינע קוזינע
Fiddler on the roof -From "Fiddler on the roof" 1964
Beygelekh/Bublitshki -From "At Home" 1959 בײגעלעך
Carina -From  "Side By Side" 1961
Der Nayer Sher -From "At Home" 1959 דער נײַער שער
Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn בײַ מיר ביסטו שײן (ענגליש)
Yidl mitn fdl (radio transcription)

Ikh Hob Dikh Tsu Fil Lib -From "At Home" 1959 איך האָב דיך צו פֿיל ליב
Israeli Marching Medley Haleloo, Hupa Hey -From " Live In Israel" 1962
Israeli Medley -From "Shalom" 1962
Matchmaker, matchmaker -From "Fiddler on the roof" 1964
Papirosn -From "Shalom" 1962 פּאַפּיראָסן
Hevenu Sholom Aleykhem -From "A Time To Remember" 1967 הבאנוּ שלוֹם עליכם
Ketsele  Broyges -From "Shalom" 1962 קעצעלע ברוגז (דעם גנבֿס יחוּס)
Makin' whoopee -From " Live In Israel" 1962
Manha De Carnaval -From "Something Spanish" 1966
Hava Nagila -From "At Home" 1959 הבה נגילה
I'm a fool to want you -From  "Side By Side" 1961
Inka dinka doo -From "Something Spanish" 1966
Nicht Auf Zintug -From "Shalom" 1962 נאַר נישט זונטיק
Noches questas -From "Something Spanish" 1966
In Mayne Oygn Bistu Sheyn -From " Live In Israel" 1962 אין מײנע אױגן ביסטו שײן
Juramos amor -From "Something Spanish" 1966
Nevertheless -From "We belong together" 1961
Now I have everything -From "Fiddler on the roof" 1964
A Hopkele -From "A Time To Remember" 1967 אַ האָפּקעלע
A Kind On A Heym -From " Live In Israel" 1962 אַ קינד אָן אַ הײם
La Sombra -From "Something Spanish" 1966
Miracle of miracles -From "Fiddler on the roof" 1964
Ortshi Tshorna -From "The Barry Sisters sing" 1954 bb
My Yiddishe Mama
It's alright with me -From  "Side By Side" 1961
My one and only love -From "We belong together" 1961
Nu Zog Mir Shoyn Ven -From " Live In Israel" 1962 נו זאָג מיר שױן װען
Passover medley  -From "Shalom" 1962
If I were a rich man -From "Fiddler on the roof" 1964
Israeli Medley Finjon, Yalel, Kalaniot, Cha-Bibi -From " Live In Israel" 1962
In other words  -From "We belong together" 1961
Never on Sunday -From  "Side By Side" 1961
Halevay -From "A Gala Concert with Moishe Oysher & The Barry Sisters Vol 2" הלװאַי (אױשער)

Que sabes tu
  -From "Something Spanish" 1966
Perdoname Mi Vida -From "Something Spanish" 1966
Shloymele Malkele -From " Live In Israel" 1962 שלמהלע מלכּהלע
Sunrise sunset -From "Fiddler on the roof" 1964
To life -From "Fiddler on the roof" 1964
Vyokh Tiokh Tiokh -From "At Home" 1959 װיאָך טיאָך טיאָך
Why don't you do right? -From  "Side By Side" 1961
Yingele Nit Veyn -From "At Home" 1959 ייִנגעלע ניט װײן
Rumenye, Rumenye  -From "The Barry Sisters sing" 1954 רומעניע, רומעניע
Sabbbath prayer -From "Fiddler on the roof" 1964
Who's sorry now -From  "Side By Side" 1961
Zog Es Mir Nokh A Mol -From "At Home" 1959 זאָג עס מיר נאָך אַ מאָל
Sholem Bayit  -From " Live In Israel" 1962
-From "Fiddler on the roof" 1964
Vu Iz Dos Gesele -From "The Barry Sisters sing" 1954 װוּ איז דאָס געסעלע
We belong together -From "We belong together" 1961
Rozhinkes Mit Mandlen -From "The Barry Sisters sing" 1954 ראָזשינקעס מיט מאַנדלען
Tum Balalayke -From "At Home" 1959 טום באַלאַלײַקע
When I fall in love  -From "We belong together" 1961
Tsu Shpet -From "Shalom" 1962 צו שפּעט
Vu Ahin Zol Ikh Geyn? -From "At Home" 1959 װוּ אַהין זאָל איך גײן? (פֿולד)
Yo Mayn Tayere Tokhter -From "At Home" 1959 יאָ מײַן ליבע טאָגטער
Sempre tu -From "We belong together" 1961


  1. Thanks so much for this! I've always loved the Barry Sisters--a true "guilty" pleasure (especially that Fiddler LP!). I've been reading through some posts I've've got great taste, Mister! It's like you're reading my mind!

  2. Excuse me...that's you've got great taste, Missy! :)

  3. Awww, Thanks! I'm so glad you like it! The harmonies, and the fact that they could SWING! ahhh....that's what made all their records so great. I'm so happy that I'm finding out that their are other folks who like what I like to listen to..........that's soooo fun! :) Oh, and make requests for lists if you like....I love doing those.

  4. Thank you for the great offerings. I find many of them intriguing and fascinating. Claire Barry is still alive although her eyesight is terrible and I don't believe that she works any more. Since you seem to like doing it, all I can say is, keep up the great work.

  5. I loved doing this list! I've loved their voices for ever so long. :)

  6. New York Times - November 25, 2014

    The Officers, Governors and Members of the Friars Club deeply mourn the loss of their esteemed member, Claire Barry. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to her family.