“Oh, Buy My Bagels, Friends!”: Yakov Yadov’s “Bublichki”

In March of last year I posted a clip of Leonid Utyosov (1895-1982), the very soul of Odessa, singing his signature song, “Bublichki” (“Bagels”). I described it as “the sob story of a girl forced to sell bagels on the street corner” and compared it to “The House of the Rising Sun.” But two things — besides language — distinguish it from the American folk ballad. First, the melody, which is based on the Yiddish tune “Dus Zekele mit Koilen” (“A Little Bag of Coal”), is a good deal peppier. And second, we know the name of the song’s author.

The bagels were baked on order by the Odessan poet Yakov Yadov (1873-1940), to satisfy Grigory Krasavin, a popular singer of satirical songs. In 1926, Krasavin returned to his native Odessa for a series of engagements. On his way from the train station, he was accosted by a cavalcade of bagel-hawkers — “Buy my bagels! Buy my bagels!” He described his journey to Yadov, who broke out in laughter and asked to be excused. For about half an hour, Krasavin sat with Yadov’s wife, drinking tea and listening to the clacking of a typewriter in the next room. Then Yadov returned, brandishing the lyrics to “Bublichki,” which Krasavin performed a few days later. The song became a sensation, the soundtrack to Soviet life in the late 1920s — and not just. “Bublichki” was a standard in émigré cabarets, and the fabulous Barry Sisters even recorded a Yiddish version in the United States.

I’ve taken a shot at a couple of the song’s verses and the refrain, but first, to give you a sense of the melody… Here’s the Yiddish “Koilen,” recorded, not altogether coincidentally, by the Odessa-born virtuoso klezmer accordionist Mishka Ziganoff (1889-1967) in New York in 1919:

Here’s Utyosov performing “Bublichki” itself:

And here are the Barry Sisters, with their bluesy “Bagelah”:

I offer you my “Bagels”:

Oh, night is falling now —
and, swaying to and fro,
the lantern’s light
cuts through the gloom…
While little dirty me,
a child of poverty —
out in the street
I stand alone…

Oh, buy my bagels, friends —
hot tasty bagels, friends!
Spare a few rubles —
don’t be tight!
Oh, please, take pity, friends,
on a poor, innocent,
forgotten waif
this nasty night.

When papa hits the booze,
he howls and yells abuse —
mama’s got one foot
in the grave.
My sister’s awful loose,
out shaking her caboose,
and my kid brother —
a gonif!

Oh, buy my bagels, friends —
hot tasty bagels, friends!
Spare a few rubles —
don’t be tight!
Oh, please, take pity, friends,
on a poor, innocent,
forgotten waif
this nasty night.

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4 thoughts on ““Oh, Buy My Bagels, Friends!”: Yakov Yadov’s “Bublichki”

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