If I Were a Rich Man:Zero Mostel was brilliant!!!


Songwriters: Jerry Bock; Sheldon Harnick

Dear God, you made many, many poor people. I realize, of course, that
It’s no great shame to be poor but it’s no great honor, either. So what would have
Been the difference if I had a small fortune?

If I were a rich man
Daidle deedle daidle
Daidle daidle deedle daidle dum
All day long I’d biddy-biddy-bum
If I were a wealthy man
I wouldn’t have to work hard
Daidle deedle daidle
Daidle daidle deedle daidle dum
If I were a biddy-biddy rich
Daidle deedle daidle daidle man

I’d build a big tall house with rooms by the dozen
Right in the middle of the town
A fine tin roof with real wooden floors below
There would be one long staircase just going up
And one even longer coming down
And one more leading nowhere, just for show

I’d fill my yard with chicks and turkeys and geese
And ducks for the town to see and hear
Squawking just as noisily as they can
And each loud “pa-pa-geeee! pa-pa-gaack! pa-pa-geeee! pa-pa-gaack!”
Would land like a trumpet on the ear
As if to say, “Here lives a wealthy man.”
Oy

If I were a rich man
Daidle deedle daidle
Daidle daidle deedle daidle dum
All day long I’d biddy-biddy-bum
If I were a wealthy man
I wouldn’t have to work hard
Daidle deedle daidle
Daidle daidle deedle daidle dum
If I were a biddy-biddy rich
Daidle deedle daidle daidle man

I see my wife, my Golde, looking like a rich man’s wife
With a proper double chin
Supervising meals to her heart’s delight
I see her putting on airs and strutting like a peacock
Oy! What a happy mood she’s in
Screaming at the servants day and night

The most important men in town will come to fawn on me–
They will ask me to advise them
Like a Solomon the Wise–
“If you please, Reb Tevye?”–
“Pardon me, Reb Tevye?”–
Posing problems that would cross a rabbi’s eyes–

Ya va voy, ya va voy voy vum

And it won’t make one bit of difference
If I answer right or wrong–
When you’re rich, they think you really know

If I were rich, I’d have the time that I lack
To sit in the synagogue and pray
And maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall
And I’d discuss the learned books with the holy men
Seven hours every day–
That would be the sweetest thing of all
Oy

If I were a rich man
Daidle deedle daidle
Daidle daidle deedle daidle dum
All day long I’d biddy-biddy-bum
If I were a wealthy man
I wouldn’t have to work hard
Daidle deedle daidle
Daidle daidle deedle daidle dum
Lord who made the lion and the lamb
You decreed I should be what I am–
Would it spoil some vast, eternal plan
If I were a wealthy man

If I Were a Rich Man” is a song from the 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof. It was written by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock. The song is performed by Tevye, the main character in the musical, and reflects his dreams of glory.

The title is inspired by a 1902 monologue by Sholem Aleichem in YiddishVen ikh bin Rothschild (If I were Rothschild), a reference to the wealth of the Rothschild family, although the content is quite different. The lyric is based in part on passages from Sholem Aleichem’s 1899 short story “The Bubble Bursts.” Both stories appeared in English in the 1949 collection of stories Tevye’s Daughters.

The song is broken into four verses, with a bridge between the third and fourth and a chorus sung at the beginning of the song, and after the second and fourth verses.

Musically, it is written in a Jewish Klezmer style.

Through the first two verses, Tevye dreams of the material comforts that wealth would bring him. Sung boisterously and comedically, Tevye first considers the enormous house he would buy and the needless luxuries he would fill it with, including a third staircase “leading nowhere, just for show,” then the poultry he would buy to fill his yard.

Tevye switches his attention to the luxuries in which he would shower his wife, Golde, in the third verse. He talks of servants to alleviate her workload, fancy clothes for her pleasure, and mountains of food. The song is sung in the same boisterous, comedic style.

The music and vocals intensify during the bridge, when Tevye starts lamenting his place in the community as a lowly milkman, and considers the esteem and importance that wealth would bring him.

In the final verse, Tevye softens as he further considers his devotion to God. He expresses his sorrow that the long working hours he keeps prevents him from spending as much time in the synagogue as he would like, and how wealth would allow him to spend less time working and more time praying and studying Torah.

A repeated phrase throughout the song, “all day long I’d bidi-bidi-bum,” is often misunderstood to refer to Tevye’s desire not to have to work. However, the phrase “bidi-bidi-bum” is a reference to the practice of Jewish prayer, in particular davening.

Cover versions and translations

  • The Hebrew version lyrics (first released in 1965) are taken directly from the original Sholem Aleichem story. The title and chorus are “לו הייתי רוטשילד” Lu hayiti Rotshild: ‘If I were Rothschild’.
  • In 1966, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass recorded an instrumental version for their album What Now My Love.
  • In 1967, Ronnie Hilton recorded a version.
  • In 1967, Roger Whittaker.
  • In 1967, Rolf Harris recorded a version.
  • In 1967, Herschel Bernardi charted with his version (Billboard “Bubbling Under The Top 100”, Record World “Non-Rock” surveys).
  • In 1968, the song was covered in French: “Ah! Si j’étais riche,” by Ivan Rebroff, and “Si j’avais des millions,” with lyrics by Charles Aznavour and sung by Dalida.
  • Big Boss and Winsome made a new French version: “Ah! Si j’étais riche”, which was different from Ivan Rebroff‘s version.
  • In 1970, Romanian rock band Mondial released a cover of the song on an EP featuring singer Gică Petrescu, together with “The Impossible Dream” (previously recorded by Jack Jones in 1966) and another two covers. Only the chorus and first couplet can be heard on this recording, mainly because of the timing limitations a single disc carries.
  • In 1970, Turkish version Ah Bir Zengin Olsam lyrics written by “Y. Taşer” and performed by Tanju Okan.
  • In the 1980s Frankie Vaughan recorded his version for his album Love Hits and High Kicks.
  • In 1999, Lady Saw covered the song.
  • In 2001 the Australian punk band Yidcore recorded the song for their self-titled debut album.[2]
  • Indie band The Magnetic Fields covered the song on the Fiddler on the Roof tribute album, Knitting on the Roof.

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