Jewish maternal disappointment may never have been quite so dramatic – nor quite so public – as that of Anna Secunda, mother of composer Shalom Secunda, circa 1937. According to one article, she fasted and prayed for her son who had sold the rights to his song, “Bei Mir Bist Du Shein,” for a mere $30.
And honestly, we might fast, too, were we in Mrs. Secunda’s shoes. The tune quickly became the world’s best-known Yiddish theater song. Performed and recorded by The Andrews Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman & His Orchestra, Judy Garland and Bette Midler, it was the only Yiddish song that was ever quite such a crossover hit.
A 1938 article in the Camden Courier-Post recounts a conversation between Secunda and his bootblack, who was whistling the wildly popular song as he shone. “I guess the guy who wrote that must be making plenty of dough,” Secunda reportedly commented. “Not him,” said the bootblack. “That dope sold his song for 30 bucks.”
Despite the insults and the parental distress, Secunda himself didn’t harp on the lost royalties. As he told the New York Times, “It bothered everyone else more than it bothered me. I’ve been more interested in my symphonic music.”