Friday, April 16, 2010

Little Brother

Ehud Manor passed away, aged 60, five years ago this week. Manor probably wrote lyrics for more Israeli songs than anyone else - more than 1,000 by some counts, between the early 1960s and the day of his death. Many are part of the canon, though it must be said that they were generally not high poetry. The Hebrew Songs website I've been using to give English translations of shirim has more than 150 by Manor, of a grand total of 4,600.

Since we're in the week we're in, here's perhaps his most memorable song of bereavement. Achi Hatzair Yehuda, My Younger Brother Yehuda is about life after the death of his younger brother Yehuda, who was killed in 1968, in the War of Attrition that spanned the years of 1968-1970. Manor wrote a number of songs about his brother, including Ben Yaffe Nolad, A Handsome Boy Was Born; this one however isn't about Yehuda, it's about life without him.

Hebrew lyrics
English translation
My young brother Yehudah,
do you hear?
do you know?
The sun still rises every morning
and its light is white,
and in the evening the wind scatters
the leaves of the garden.
The first rain
came down two days ago
on Tuesday evening,
and the sky is visible again,
in the puddle on the main road.

My young brother Yehudah,
do you hear?
do you know?
Your kids are in the garden,
they're learning a new song already,
and in high school the students
are again training on the field,
winds of sunset
howl on the balcony
the songs of autumn,
and Mom secretly waits
that maybe a letter will arrive.

My young brother Yehudah,
do you hear?
do you know?
All your good friends
carry your image with them,
and in all the tanks on the border lines
you are with them.
My good brother,
I remember your eyes,
and they solve riddles.
And my baby son is handsome like you,
I will name him in your name, Yehudah.

Manor's youngest son, by the way, really is named Yehuda (b.1974).

There have been many recordings of this song; I've chosen one sung by Manor himself, who recorded songs only rarely.

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