February 22, 2023

Standing in a Corner

By Gordon Lockwood

Ricky Gordon of Gordon Lockwood, Once Upon a Time the Fire Burned Brighter recording session

This first piece is based on a field recording by an otherwise unknown Yiddish ballad singer named Itka Factorovich Sol who was featured on The Yiddish Song of the Week in 2017. Sol migrated to the United States from Ukraine in 1912. She was recorded by her grandson at home in Detroit in 1958. The song is sung from the perspective of an alienated and isolated protagonist who manages to find a drinking companion—the moon. The two overcome their confusion and shame and make their way to the liquor store.

Standing in a Corner
by Itka Factorovich Sol

I’m standing in a corner,
All alone.
My eyes go dark,
I know not which way to go.

The whole world is drunk
Sitting here alone.
The road is hidden,
I don’t know where I’m going.

At first, at first the moon would shine,
How brightly she shined!
But after a while she hid her face
Turned to the wall.

The moon wants a drink of whiskey
But she has no money.
She comes to me ashamed
And hides her face.

Moon, moon, come here!
I have something to tell you.
The world has nothing for you,
Let me give you a piece of advice.

I have a good plan for you—
Listen to me.
Come with me to the liquor store,
We’ll pawn a few of your stars.

Itka Factorovich Sol (left), with her younger sister Channa-Leya “Lizzie” Factorovich
in the City of Chernigov, Ukraine, c. 1910, courtesy of Steve Balkin
Photograph from The Yiddish Song of the Week

שטײ איך מיר איני אַ װינקעלע

שטײ איך מיר איני אַ װינקעלע
.אײנער אַלײן
אין מײַנע אױגן איז מיר פֿינצטער
.איך זע ניט װוּהין צו גײן

שיכּור איז די גאַנצע װעלט
.זעט זיך דאָך אַלײן
און די װעג איז מיר פֿאַרשטעלט
.איך זע ניט װוּהין איך גײ

אָט ערשט, אָט ערשט האָט די לבֿנה געשײַנט
.זי האָט אַזױ ליכטיק געשײַנט
מיט אַ מאָל האָט זי איר פּנים פֿאַרשטעלט
.אַזױ װי הינטער אַ װאַנט

,די לבֿנה װיל אַ ביסעלע בראַנפֿן
.אַ מכּה האָט זי געלט
,האָט זי זיך פֿאַר מיר פֿאַרשעמט
.און האָט איר פּנים פֿאַרשטעלט

לבֿנה, לבֿנה קום אַהער
.איך װעל דיר עפּעס זאָגן
.די װעלט לאָזט זיך נאָך ניט אױס
.איך קען דיר אַן עצה געבן

.איך האָב פֿאַר דיר אַ גוטן פּלאַן
.דו זאָלסט מיך נאָר אױסהערן
קום מיט מיר אין מאָנאָפּאָל
.פֿאַרזעצן אַ פּאָר שטערן

Jeremiah Lockwood is a scholar and musician working in the fields of Jewish studies, performance studies, and ethnomusicology. He is the founder of the band The Sway Machinery and is currently a Yale Institute of Sacred Music Fellow. His work engages with issues arising from peering into the archive and imagining the power of “lost” forms of expression to articulate keenly felt needs in the present.

Ricky Gordon is a drummer, percussionist, composer, actor, and social activist. He has performed and recorded with a host of musicians including Wynton Marsalis, Carolina Slim, Public Enemy, Hubert Sumlin, Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra, The Allman Brothers Band, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and The Fraternal Order of the Society Blues. Some of Gordon’s acting credits include HBO’s Treme and Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, Mo’ Better Blues, and School Daze. He recently worked on the Jon Batiste production American Symphony, which premiered at Carnegie Hall.