08 November 2008

'Build A Little Home' with Chinese lyrics

(Eddie Cantor, Roman Scandals, 1933)

Build A Little Home
Lyrics: Al Dubin
Music: Harry Warren

We'll always have a roof above us as long as there's a sky.
And if we have someone to love us, we're sure of getting by.
We don't need a lot of log and stone.
Build a home on happiness alone.

With a million little stars, we can decorate the ceiling
With an optimistic feeling when we build a little home.
Ev'ry single little dream is a shingle or a rafter.
We can paint the house with laughter when we build a little home.
It's not a palace nor a poor house, but the rent is absolutely free.
This is my house, but it's your house if you'll come and live with me.
With a carpet on the floor made of buttercups and clover,
All our troubles will be over when we build a little home.

*     *     *

Due to the word or page limit for the thesis, or the time limit for the presentation of the thesis, PhD students sometimes may have to edit out several sections, or even chapters, to observe the size restriction, or leave unsolved issues in abeyance in order to submit in time. However, sometimes they may wish they had discovered something and wrote it down in the theses.

I have been misled by old Shanghai songbooks and magazines for umpteen years to believe that the old Shanghai song 'A Little Family' (小小家庭 Xiaoxiao jiating) is an original tune composed by Li Jinhui (黎錦暉), the so-called progenitor of Chinese pop music in modern times.

Thanks to Davide, who showed me some recordings and their paper labels, I learnt that the lovely tune was actually adapted from an American song 'Build A Little Home' written by Harry Warren for the musical comedy Roman Scandals in 1933.

There are actually more cases in which American songs were claimed to be written by Li Jinhui, either mistakenly or intentionally, for example, Stephen Foster's 'Oh! Susanna' to be 'Don't Cry, Susan' (蘇三不要哭 Susan buyao ku) and Sammy Fain's 'By A Waterfall' to be 'Narcissus Girl' (水仙花小姐 Shuixianhua guniang).

It's a pity that I didn't find this out before the thesis was submitted, otherwise I could have added in my thesis one more section about how songwriters in 1930s Shanghai set Chinese lyrics to foreign tunes and claimed those pieces their own works in published songbooks.

Anyway, listen to a clip from 'A Little Family' in Chinese by a girl member, Zhang Jing (張靜), from Li Jinhui's dance-and-song troupe. It sounds cute. Readers who read Chinese may want to follow the lyrics below.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi wei, your school sister Jiun is looking for you. Your blog is the only place I can find your existence. Write me at yowjiun@mail.ncku.edu.tw

Sorry for boring your friends on the web.