Saturday, June 12, 2010

Das Lila Lied (1920)

Magnus Hirschfeld and Friends. This song was supposedly written for him and dedicated to him.


Was will man nur? Ist das Kultur,
da jeder Mensch verpönt ist,
der klug und gut, jedoch mit Blut
von eigner Art durchströmt ist,
da grade die Kategorie
vor dem Gesetz verbannt ist,
die im Gefühl bei Lust und Spiel
und in der Art verwandt ist?
Und dennoch sind die meisten stolz,
da sie von anderm Holz!
Wir sind nun einmal anders, als die andern,
die nur im Gleichschritt der Moral geliebt,
neugerig erst durch tausend Wunder wandern,
und für die ’s doch nur das Banale gibt.
Wir aber wissen nicht, wie das Gefühl ist,
denn wir sind alle andrer Welten Kind;
wir lieben nur die lila Nacht, die schwül ist,
weil wir ja anders als die andern sind.

Wozu die Qual, uns die
Moral der andern aufzudrängen?
Wir, hört geshwind, sind wie wir sind,
selbst wollte man uns hängt,
den müte man beweinen,
doch bald gebt acht, es wird über Nacht
auch unsre Sonne scheinen.
Dann haben wir das gleiche Recht erstritten,
wir leiden nicht meht, sondern sind gelitten.
Wir sind nun einmal anders, usw.


(Ute Lemper's version)
What makes them think they have the right to say what God considers vice
What makes them think they have the right to keep us out of Paradise
They make our lives hell here on Earth
poisoning us with guilt and shame
If we resist, prison awaits so our love dares not speak its name
The crime is when love must hide
From now on we'll love with pride

CHORUS: We're not afraid to be queer and different
if that means hell -- well, hell we'll take the chance
they're all so straight, uptight, upright and rigid
they march in locksep we prefer to dance
We see a world of romance and of pleasure
All they can see is sheer banality
Lavender nights are our greatest treasure
where we can be just who we want to be

Round us all up, send us away
that's what you'd really like to do
But we're too strong, proud, unafraid
in fact we almost pity you
You act from fear, why should that be
What is it that you are frightened of
The way that we dress
The way that we meet
The fact that you cannot destroy our love
We're going to win our rights
to lavender days and nights

CHORUS






Ute Lemper's version is a lot more aggressive than the original German version, but she is true to the original in spirit. The idea that gays, lesbians, and transgenders should embrace their sexuality was very bold in 1920, too bold for a lot of lgbt's then. This song is quite a bit to the left of popular writers like Radclyffe Hall. The only gay writer of the time that I could imagine embracing its sentiments might be Edward Carpenter. This kind of positive embrace of same-sexuality would not appear again until the 1950s in the USA with leaders such as Harry Hay, Frank Kameny, and Barbara Gittings, and it was still very controversial then.
This song seems to have been popular, a cabaret hit. There are 3 surviving recordings of it, like the one above by Marek Weber who lead one of the major big bands in Weimar era Berlin. I think that any recording of this song survives from that era is amazing. The Nazis were very thorough in their destruction of the archives and publications of German gay movements.

It's amazing what you can discover wandering around YouTube.

3 comments:

JCF said...

Fascinating.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

jeff~m said...

Here's another English version
(courtesy of me!)

The Lavender Song

What's it to them?
Why must they condemn,
Censure, denounce and blame us?
We're clever and good,
Yet it's understood
The world has the right to shame us!
They'd rather shun
Pleasure and fun,
(Unless it's a joy to defame us.)
They call it a sin,
Yet our nature will win,
For no one, in the end, will tame us.
And most of us, in fact, feel pride
In showing who we are inside!

We're who we are: We're other than the others,
The others who love in lockstep with the law.
Through worlds of delight, with our lovers and our brothers,
We're making hay, while they are making straw.
We don't know where we get this special feeling.
Unsealing our pride, we invite the world to see
Our lavender nights, their purple lights revealing:
Lovers! For other than the others are we!

Why do they strain?
What do they gain?
Why should their laws coerce us?
Simply to bar
The way that we are,
They'd gladly hang and curse us.
Fools and naive
For them to believe
Hanging will somehow reverse us!
We'll spring over night,
And the dawn's early light
Will show the world they can't disperse us.
The trodden on will rise above,
With equal rights, to live and love!

We're who we are: We're other than the others,
The others who love in lockstep with the law.
Through worlds of delight, with our lovers and our brothers,
We're making hay, while they are making straw.
We don't know where we get this special feeling.
Unsealing our pride, we invite the world to see
Our lavender nights, their purple lights revealing:
Lovers! For other than the others are we!

(c)Jeff Miller