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Origins: Dona Dona

DigiTrad:
DONA DONA


Related threads:
(origins) Help: Meaning of 'Donna donna' in Yiddish (63)
Lyr/Chords Req: Donna (Dona, Dona) (15)


Bob Bolton 22 Jul 00 - 03:03 AM
Helen 22 Jul 00 - 03:52 AM
Joe Offer 22 Jul 00 - 04:01 AM
Joe Offer 22 Jul 00 - 04:20 AM
Catrin 22 Jul 00 - 06:01 AM
Bob Bolton 23 Jul 00 - 02:17 AM
Helen 23 Jul 00 - 02:33 AM
JennieG 23 Jul 00 - 06:02 AM
Mary in Kentucky 23 Jul 00 - 07:34 AM
Joe Offer 23 Jul 00 - 10:04 AM
Mary in Kentucky 23 Jul 00 - 10:08 AM
celticblues5 23 Jul 00 - 01:38 PM
Mark Cohen 23 Jul 00 - 11:28 PM
Joe Offer 24 Jul 00 - 12:36 AM
Mike Regenstreif 24 Jul 00 - 08:46 AM
Wolfgang 01 Aug 00 - 09:59 AM
GUEST,bet 05 Oct 00 - 03:34 PM
Joe Offer 05 Oct 00 - 06:07 PM
bet 07 Oct 00 - 06:55 PM
katlaughing 07 Oct 00 - 11:26 PM
Allan C. 09 Oct 00 - 08:56 AM
Ferrara 09 Oct 00 - 06:02 PM
Arly 09 Oct 00 - 07:10 PM
Joe Offer 09 Oct 00 - 07:48 PM
Wolfgang 20 Oct 00 - 05:57 AM
Troll 20 Oct 00 - 12:15 PM
Coyote Breath 18 Mar 02 - 11:38 PM
GUEST,Michael Pilkington 16 Jan 06 - 08:03 AM
bet 17 Jan 06 - 01:54 AM
Big Al Whittle 17 Jan 06 - 04:58 AM
Bonnie Shaljean 17 Jan 06 - 07:45 PM
Big Al Whittle 17 Jan 06 - 07:48 PM
M.Ted 18 Jan 06 - 04:29 PM
Wilfried Schaum 19 Jan 06 - 07:17 AM
GUEST 09 Nov 06 - 03:56 PM
McGrath of Harlow 09 Nov 06 - 09:13 PM
Wolfgang 10 Nov 06 - 12:03 PM
GUEST,sukarsa 12 May 07 - 06:07 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 12 May 07 - 01:21 PM
Bob the Postman 12 May 07 - 01:47 PM
Jack Campin 12 May 07 - 07:24 PM
Bob the Postman 12 May 07 - 07:44 PM
Joe_F 12 May 07 - 08:44 PM
Little Robyn 12 May 07 - 08:54 PM
Lonesome EJ 13 May 07 - 12:52 AM
Big Al Whittle 13 May 07 - 04:41 AM
Amos 13 May 07 - 11:16 AM
Big Al Whittle 13 May 07 - 12:54 PM
DADGBE 13 May 07 - 02:16 PM
C. Ham 13 May 07 - 03:00 PM
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Subject: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 22 Jul 00 - 03:03 AM

G'day,

I would appreciate any information on the age and provenance of the Jewish song Dona, Dona (or various other spellings), with the lines:

DONA, DONA

On a wagon, bound for market, There's a calf with a mournful eye.
High above them, there's a swallow, winging swiftly through the sky,
How the winds are laughing - they laugh with all their might;
Laugh and laugh the whole day through and half the summer night.
Donna donna donna donna, donna donna donna do,
Donna donna donna donna, donna donna donna do.

"Stop complaining," said the farmer "Who told you a calf to be?
Why don't you have wings to fly with, like the swallow, so proud and free?"
How the winds are laughing - they laugh with all their might;
Laugh and laugh the whole day through and half the summer night.
Donna donna donna donna, donna donna donna do,
Donna donna donna donna, donna donna donna do.

Calves are easily bound and slaughtered, never knowing the reason why,
But, whoever treasures freedom, like the swallow has learned to fly.
How the winds are laughing - they laugh with all their might;
Laugh and laugh the whole day through and half the summer night.
Donna donna donna donna, donna donna donna do,
Donna donna donna donna, donna donna donna do.

Various references suggest that the song 'became something of an anthem for the Jews in the Second World War', so I presume that it is either a commercial (Yiddish?) song of the '20s or '30s (now translated into English) or an older folk or traditional song that found a new period of meaning. I have the tune on an Australian kletzmer recording (without credit) and the song on an Australian folk/rock recording (with the attribution 'trad.').

I have heard it on 2 or 3 other recordings over the past 35 years and love the tune (played along with the kletzmer group's Dm rendition an my low 'F' whistle) although the words have a rather stilted ring, suggesting that they may be a literal translation.

Anyway, I hope that someone expert in the genre can give me a better background than what I have, down here in the depths of the antipodes.

BTW: I could not find the song in the DigiTrad - either by search on the lyrics or looking through the likely places in the name lists.

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Helen
Date: 22 Jul 00 - 03:52 AM

Hi Bob,

I did a search with Google using the phrase "on a wagon, bound formarket" and found quite a few references to this song. The info at this site was the most comprehensive.

http://www.higginspage.com/songpages/donadona.htm

Dona, Dona

Composer: Secunda, Sholom (1894-1974)

Author (Yiddish): Tsaytlin, Aaron (1899-1974)

Eng: Arthur Kevess & Teddi Schwartz copyright 1940 1956 by Mills Music Inc. Copyright renewed. All rights reserved.

Original written in Yiddish for the show Isterke in 1940. The song was banned in South Korea at one point as "leftist" and"violence-producing". In Kevess & Schwartz "Tumbalalaika". On "Joan Baez" (Vang) & in her SB. Donovan "Best of" & "Pye History of Pop" & on "Hava Nagila Festival - Et All" (Tara).

Do you have the chords for this? If you do you can just list them without trying to fit them to the lyrics because I know where the chord changes are but don't remember all the chords. It used to be the only song I could play on guitar "Em Am Em Am" and that's all I remember.

Helen


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Subject: ADD: Info - background of Dona Dona
From: Joe Offer
Date: 22 Jul 00 - 04:01 AM

Hi, Bob - I found the English words in the DigiTrad, but not the Yiddish ones.

DONA, DONA
(Words by Aaron Zeitlin, Music by Sholom Secunda, 1943)

Oyfin furl ligt dos kelbl
Ligt gebunden mit a shtrik
Hoykh in himl flit dos shvelbl
Freyt zikh, dreyt zikh hin un krik

Chorus:
Lakht der vint in korn,
Lakht un lakht un lakht
Lakht er op a tog a gantsn,
Un a halber nakht
Dona, dona, dona...

Shrayt dos kelbl, zogt der poyer
Ver zhe heyst dikh zayn a kalb?
Volst gekert tsu zayn a foygl
Volst gekert tsu zayn a shvalb

Bidne kelber tut men bindn
Un men shlept zey un men shekht
Ver s'hot fligl, flit aroyftsu
Iz bay keynem nit kayn knekht

CHORDS:
Am E Am E / Am Dm Am E / Am E Am E / Am Dm AmE Am

CHORUS:
G - C - / / G - C Am / E - Am - / E - Am G - C E / - - Am - Dm E Am -

Non-verse translation:
In a wagon lies a calf; it is tied with a rope. High in the sky a swallow soars, is joyous, and runs back and forth. The wind laughs in the cornfield, laughs and laughs and laughs. It laughs a whole day and half the night. Dona, Dona, Dona...

The calf cries and the farmer says: Who told you to be a calf? You could have been a bird, you could have been a swallow.

Poor calves are bound and dragged and slaughtered. Whoever has wings flies high and is no one's slave.
Words by Aaron Zeitlin (1889-1973); music by Sholom Secunda (1894-1974). Published in sheet music by Metro Music Co., New York, 1943.
Originally entitled "Dana, Dana, Dana,": the song was written for Zeitlin's play Esterke, produced by Maurice Schwartz in 1940-41, and printed in the program. It became one of the most widely sung Yiddish songs and was performed in Yiddish and English translation by Theodore Bikel, Joan Baez, and others Translations have also appeared in German and Korean.
In some collections, beginning with Ben Yomen's (1946), the words are erroneously attributed to Yitskhok Katzenelson, a Hebrew-Yiddish poet active in the Warsaw Ghetto underground. In a recent record produced in Germany, not only is the song attributed to Katzenelson, it is interpreted as having been written in the Ghetto to express Jews' longing for freedom.
Source: Pearls of Yiddish Song, Eleanor Gordon Mlotek & Joseph Mlotek, © 1988, Education Department of Workmen's Circle. ^^


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Joe Offer
Date: 22 Jul 00 - 04:20 AM

Hi, Helen - I copied the chords from the Rise Up Singing songbook. The slashes separate lines. If there is nothing between two slashes, that means the chords are the same as for the previous line.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Catrin
Date: 22 Jul 00 - 06:01 AM

Joe,

Reading the non-verse translation made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck! Just thought I'd share that.

What a beautiful song it is.

Catrin


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 23 Jul 00 - 02:17 AM

G'day Helen, Joe and Catrin,

Thanks to everyone for the fine work - Mudcatry at its best!

I see that my guesses were reasonably accurate (except that it was just a little too late for the '30s). It is a beautiful song with a striking tune and I hate not knowing the background. It was sung by a local Sydney singer of Jewish background, Dave Alexander, but he died a year or two back, so I lost my chance to ask him.

I don't know why my searches ([dona dona], [donna donna] and [mournful eye]) didn't work but I am relieved that it is indeed in the DigiTrad. I will appreciate the chords -at least for the guitar-inclined at my Monday Night Workshop!

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Helen
Date: 23 Jul 00 - 02:33 AM

Bob,

I'm really glad you asked about this song. I never really thought about who wrote it or where it came from. I also never really understood what it was saying, but knowing it is a Jewish song suddenly makes it all very clear. Forest for the trees, and all that. I only ever heard Donovan sing it so I had unconsciously assumed that he wrote it.

Thanks for the chords, too, Joe.

Helen


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: JennieG
Date: 23 Jul 00 - 06:02 AM

Guitar-inclined - I'll let that one pass without comment Bob!

Whistle-y and accordian-ly challenged JennieG


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 23 Jul 00 - 07:34 AM

Hi Helen,

I noticed that you referred to Robin Higgins' page. She's the person that got me started writing HTML, and I've thanked her many times. While you're at her page, go to the home page and read about her history. You may remember her husband, Col. Rich Higgins, the hostage that was executed in Lebanon. Robin's sister-in-law is a friend of mine.

Several years ago when I first saw her page she was looking for the midi to Dona, Dona. She said it was one of her favorites because her grandmother always sang it to her in Yiddish. That was before I knew about the Midi Search Engine, but I somehow managed to find it. Seems like a various spelling is Donna, Donna. Anyway, those of us who grew up in the 60's remember the Joan Baez version.

Mary


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 Jul 00 - 10:04 AM

Hey, Mary, know of a nice MIDI you can link us to?
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 23 Jul 00 - 10:08 AM

Hi Joe, Helen's link to Robin Higgins' page has a very nice guitar-sounding midi. It's here. http://www.higginspage.com/songpages/donadona.htm


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: celticblues5
Date: 23 Jul 00 - 01:38 PM

Like Mary, I remember the Joan Baez version - it's in her songbook. I'm pretty sure I remember hearing Theodore Bikel doing it too, but don't know what year that might have been.


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 23 Jul 00 - 11:28 PM

This was one of the songs we always sang when we got together to sing as folkie high school kids in Philadelphia in the late 60s. Bob, I'm really glad you started this thread. I always thought of it as Yiddish folk song with a slightly stuffy English translation, and left it at that. Thanks for the info, everybody, and especially for the original Yiddish, Joe. Are you SURE you're not Jewish? By the way, Jon Freeman did a nice rendition on HearMe tonight. (Well, today for me...)

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Jul 00 - 12:36 AM

Hi, Mark - With a father named Offer and a mother named Coon (Cohn?) I figure both my parents have fathers with Jewish ancestry - but it's the mother that carries on the Jewish ancestry, and one grandmother was French Catholic and the other Irish Catholic, for generation upon generation.
But I spent my early years in a Jewish neighborhood in Detroit, and Judaism has always fascinated me.
L'Chaim, Mark!
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Mike Regenstreif
Date: 24 Jul 00 - 08:46 AM

For anyone who wants to hear "Dona, Dona" in Yiddish, it's on the Klezmer Conservatory Band's album "Oy Chanukah."

Mike Regenstreif


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Wolfgang
Date: 01 Aug 00 - 09:59 AM

Joe, what makes you so sure that Katzenelson is not the author and do you know more how that information originated? The last time I have read this (wrong?) information was in a recent book, Jizchak Katzenelson, Dos lied vunem ojsgehargetn jidischn volk.
I've also read that 'Dona, dona' was in the original 'Adonai, Adonai', meaning 'my God, my God', but that might be wrong too.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: GUEST,bet
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 03:34 PM

Will, I'm a little late adding to this link but Bob, another thanks for this link. I am at school and have just introduced this song to my 4th grade classes. In our new songb book series they give no history, etc of a lot of the songs so I went to Mudcat. With the help of Kat I managed to find this link and was able to let the kids see and hear how things work on the mudcat. Nice experience for them. Oh, by the was the new books are published by McGraw-Hill and they spelled it Donna, Donna. I wonder why the variation in spells? Betty


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Joe Offer
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 06:07 PM

Welcome back, Bet - I've noticed the song spelled "Donna, Donna" at time, too. I checked at www.jewishmusic.com. Most of the recordings spell it "Dona," but there are a couple that spell it "Donna." Remember that Yiddish is written in Hebrew characters, so what we see is a transliteration - and rules for transliteration can vary.

I see a couple of recordings of the song on a CD by the Zamir Chorale of Boston (click to hear). Public Broadcasting recently showed a great program about the Chorale's Poland tour.

Wolfgang, can you tell us more about Katzenelson? The Mlotek songbook seemed pretty credible in their explanation of the authorship of this song. It would be interesting to ask them how they came to the conclusion that it was not Katzenelson who wrote "Dona, Dona."

Can anybody give us authoritative information about the transliteration of the song title?

-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: bet
Date: 07 Oct 00 - 06:55 PM


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: katlaughing
Date: 07 Oct 00 - 11:26 PM

Cat got yout tongue, again, sis?**BG** Just refreshing this for ya...

luvyourlittlesiskat


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Allan C.
Date: 09 Oct 00 - 08:56 AM

I really can't begin to understand the addition of a second "n" in the "Dona". I have only ever heard the title words pronounced with a long "o" as in, dOnation. The double "n", which transforms it into a woman's name and would change the pronunciation of the "o", would make it sound quite wrong to me. Besides, the song has nothing to do with any woman at all; much less one named, Donna. It is a puzzlement.


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Ferrara
Date: 09 Oct 00 - 06:02 PM

The timing of this thread is a mind boggling coincidence, as far as I'm concerned.

I sang yesterday for a Jewish group called the Workmen's Circle. One of their national officers was Joseph (Yossele?) Mlotek, the co-author of "Pearls of Yiddish Song." The gentleman next to me at lunch knew Mr. Mlotek, who passed away about a month ago, and attended his funeral. During lunch he told me about the efforts Mr. Mlotek and his wife made to collect and document Yiddish music.

The title of their last book, "Pearls of Yiddish Song," was the title of a weekly column they wrote as well.

I was so thrilled to be hearing about these two remarkable people and now here's a reference to their collection on Mudcat the very next day.

One small indication of the regard in which Mr. Mlotek was held, is that Theodore Bikel attended his funeral and sang two (Yiddish) songs for him.


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Arly
Date: 09 Oct 00 - 07:10 PM

Just to muddy things up a bit more (in the interest of goading someone into doing further research, you understand), I was told by my Hungarian grandmother that it was sung widely by the Hungarians (any religion) after their swift takeover. Somehow it seems easier to believe an oppressed people really sang it than to believe it was a showtune, anyway.

I will ask my brother to teach me to how to sing the Yiddish version listed in a previous post.

Arly


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Subject: Yiddish Songbooks
From: Joe Offer
Date: 09 Oct 00 - 07:48 PM

Well, Arly, if you call it a "showtune," it has the implication that it was written for a Broadway musical. If you say it was written for the Yiddish theater, it doesn't sound so crassly commercial.

There are three Mlotek Yiddish songbooks, and all three are true pearls. The first, Mir Trogn a Gesang, was first published in 1972 and reissued in March, 2000 (it was unavailable for quite some time). Pearls of Yiddish Song was published in 1988. Songs of Generations: New Pearls of Yiddish Song was published sometime after 1994, but I can't find a copyright date in the book. You can contact the publisher, Workmen's Circle, at http://www.circle.org/. All three books are now available at http://www.jewishmusic.com, which has a complete list of all the songs in all three books.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Wolfgang
Date: 20 Oct 00 - 05:57 AM

Joe,
Wolf Biermann, the translator of Katzenelson, writes in his introduction to the above mentioned book (my transl.):

I found in an old songbook the jiddish original [of Dona Dona] and read for the first time the name of the author: a man called Katzenelson.

Biermann gives no reference for that claim.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Troll
Date: 20 Oct 00 - 12:15 PM

Henry Sapoznik, in his book, Klezmer! credits Sholomo Secunda with the authorship in 1940 for a Yiddish theatre production called "Esterk" (Esther) and singer Teddi Schwartz with the english translation.
It is entirely possible that Secunda took the idea for the song from someone else but it is to his estate that ASCAP still sends the royalty checks.
I first learned the song from the singing of Joan Baez and later of Theo Bikel.(Here comes the shameless commercial plug) The 24Th Street Klezmer! Band has recorded Dona Dona on a cd called "Klezarchy" which will be out - I hope!- in December.

troll


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Coyote Breath
Date: 18 Mar 02 - 11:38 PM

Could the various spellings (donna - dona) be a clue that the song was NOT written (at least for something as formal as a play)? I always wanted to say 'dough nah' for the spelling dona and don nah for the donna spelling. Could dona (with what I perceive to be a long O) be a more authentic word, coming from the Yiddish tradition? Donna seems like a way to make us english speakers more omfortable with dona. Anyone follow this?

I always loved the song. The calf was such a sad image. It fits perfectly as a song of people fearing they could be "...bound and slaughtered"


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: GUEST,Michael Pilkington
Date: 16 Jan 06 - 08:03 AM

Some information that does not seem to be covered anywhere yet. In 1963 Mills Music published 'Don, dona' in a version for SATB. This says the music is by Dholom Secunda, the words by Aaron Zeitlin and the English translation by Sheldon Secunda. (The English is quite different from the Kevess and Schwarz version. It does not actually nclude the Yiddish text. Mills Music also give 'copyright 1940'. This version is much simpler than the Joan Baez version, consisting almost entire of straight quarter notes.
I have been asked to produce an authentic version of this song for the English Music examination board (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) and since this song has been chosen for the beginners' grade (Grade 1) I would think the simple version the best, if I can authenticate it.
Is the Metro Music version of 1943 available? Or would the Mlotek source be best - if I can lay hands on it!

Thanks

Michael Pilkington


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: bet
Date: 17 Jan 06 - 01:54 AM

This is one of those songs that keeps poping up here. Thanks kat for pulling it up. I don't know how to do it. Great song. bet


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 17 Jan 06 - 04:58 AM

never really dug this song.

after all - pretty fatuous, well actually downright callous advice from the farmer, how does it help the calf?


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Bonnie Shaljean
Date: 17 Jan 06 - 07:45 PM

I do like it, but I really have to agree with Weelittledrummer. I was always irritated by the implication that if you hold a losing hand, you're somehow at fault if you don't escape or defeat it. "Who told you a calf to be?"...? But how one is born is not a matter of choice or following instructions. "...like the swallow, has learned to fly"? Sorry, NO. Not if you're a cow. Flying is not something you can learn if nature has not physically designed you for it.

The blithe assumption that anything is possible where there's a will is an insult to those suffering victimisation or misfortunes of birth which they have no control over. You don't always get choices. And sometimes, if the other guy is stronger than you, the other guy is going to win. "Stop complaining" just doesn't cut it as a response.   

I know what the symbolism is trying to convey, but this song ignores too much of reality and simply blames the victim.


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 17 Jan 06 - 07:48 PM

oh great. I'm not on my own then in this!
I was afraid I was being dim and missing the point.


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: M.Ted
Date: 18 Jan 06 - 04:29 PM

It's Yiddish. It's ironic. The farmer isn't talking to the calf as much as to himself. Forget I mentioned it. I should be talking to a cow, as much good as it does.


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 19 Jan 06 - 07:17 AM

how does it help the calf? - Nothing. But that is not the intention of the song. M.Ted has stated the point: Ironically it describes the Jewish situation as a forigner in the Tsar's realm. If you are born as a Jew you are bound to suffer.
... but this song ignores too much of reality and simply blames the victim. - Wrong. The song exactly describes the situation (up to the beginning of the 20th century). The victim was always blamed.
And pogrom is a Russian word


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Nov 06 - 03:56 PM

No one here explains what Dona Dona (the words, not the song) actually means. Does any one know?


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 09 Nov 06 - 09:13 PM

Several people have suggested that it doesn't have a meaning as such, any more than "la la la" would. That makes sense. It expresses a mood. A way of enduring the un-endurable.


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Subject: RE: Info Request - background of 'Dona Dona'
From: Wolfgang
Date: 10 Nov 06 - 12:03 PM

No one here explains what Dona Dona (the words, not the song) actually means.

Go to the second of "related threads" (far above, even above the posters names) for many attempts at that.

Bottom line: see McGrath's post

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dona Dona
From: GUEST,sukarsa
Date: 12 May 07 - 06:07 AM

Hi, I would like to include this song in my work, and I'm having difficulties to know if the melody is copyrighted; and thus implied royalty,-etc,
FYI, this song became the icon of socialist mouvement in Asia in the sixties, and I think it's coming back.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dona Dona
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 12 May 07 - 01:21 PM

I must have sung this song back in the mid-60s, because I have a recollection of singing it for my guitar teacher. He liked the song and asked me to write down the words as he felt it would suit his wife's voice. A few weeks later, I asked him if his wife had learnt the song. He said she hadn't because she couldn't sing a song about cattle getting slaughtered!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dona Dona
From: Bob the Postman
Date: 12 May 07 - 01:47 PM

Blood and Patterson included "Dona Dona" in their "Rise Up Singing" song book with the following information:

Yiddish Lyrics: Aaron Zeitlin
English Lyrics: Arthur Kevess and Teddi Schwartz
Music: Sholem Secunda
Copyright 1940, 1956 by Mills Music Inc. Copyright renewed. All rights reserved. Used by permission of CPP Belwin Inc.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dona Dona
From: Jack Campin
Date: 12 May 07 - 07:24 PM

I first heard it in New Zealand in the 1960s. Nobody ever sang it with a long "o" - always "Donna, Donna". I assumed it was meant to be a woman's name, but couldn't work out what the song was saying about her. In a period that outdid the Eurovision Song Contest for meaningless lyrics (American Pie, MacArthur Park, the complete works of Bob Dylan) it didn't stand out as unusually incoherent, and the tune carried it.

I assume everybody there got it from Joan Baez's version - how was her Yiddish pronunciation? Where did *she* get it?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dona Dona
From: Bob the Postman
Date: 12 May 07 - 07:44 PM

Maybe Ms. Baez learned it off a Theodore Bikel record.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dona Dona
From: Joe_F
Date: 12 May 07 - 08:44 PM

Sometimes a show tune, unlike a calf, can escape. Other examples are Rozhenkes mit mandeln (Yiddish) and Hobellied (German).

Come to think, there is a horrific short story about a calf that escaped: "A Mother's Tale" by James Agee. But that was a fantasy, or rather nightmare.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dona Dona
From: Little Robyn
Date: 12 May 07 - 08:54 PM

Maybe JB learnt it from Theodore himself. We learnt it from her record and we were singing it in 1963.
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dona Dona
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 13 May 07 - 12:52 AM

The Chad Mitchell Trio with Roger McGuinn perform Dona, Dona, Dona on the Bell Telephone Hour circa 1959. Beautiful rendition.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dona Dona
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 May 07 - 04:41 AM

irony my arse!

the world is full of assholes telling you to get on with it, and that your troubles are not worthy of consideration.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dona Dona
From: Amos
Date: 13 May 07 - 11:16 AM

Indeed, it is, WLD. But that does not change the irony of the song about that situation.

One's own choices always have a great deal to do with where one ends up.


A


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dona Dona
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 May 07 - 12:54 PM

the situation of the creator of the song I can only guess at, or his ironical twist of mind.

the song is horribly callous as it stands. I can think of few who would derive comfort from its message.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dona Dona
From: DADGBE
Date: 13 May 07 - 02:16 PM

My goodness, this thread has been around for a long time and this is the first time I've encountered it. Here's a personal recollection for what it's worth.

In 1957 I met and played music with Teddi Schwartz on numerous occasions. She was a difficult person with something of an attitude problem. On one hand, she demanded that everyone quit whining, accept their lot in life and make the best of it. When in that frame of mind, she was less than forgiving towards the 'calves' who couldn't change their fate.

On the other hand, she claimed to be solicitous of people who, through no fault of their own, were caught in impossible situations. This attitude came out when she spoke of her family lost in the holocaust.

I could never understood how she made the distinction between those who could help themselves and those who couldn't. Even then, when I was 11 years old, I could see the effects of her personal contradictions which are so apparent in the song. The translation fit perfectly into her 'quit whining' paradigm.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Dona Dona
From: C. Ham
Date: 13 May 07 - 03:00 PM

The Chad Mitchell Trio with Roger McGuinn perform Dona, Dona, Dona on the Bell Telephone Hour circa 1959. Beautiful rendition.

That clip is definitly not from 1959. Roger's gig with the Chad Mitchell Trio dated from 1961. His first gig, backing the Limeliters, started in 1960.


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