"Tzena Tzena" was written in 1941 by Issachar Miron and Yehiel Chagiz. They were both in the Jewish Brigade of the British Army. The song became a hit here (Palestine, at the time) Pete Seeger heard it and brought it to his band, The Weavers who recorded and released it in 1950. It reached #2 on the Billboard charts and then nearly every major recording artist in America at the time, recorded it.
The surviving songwriter out of the two is Issachar Miron, who just celebrated his 93rd birthday. I was introduced to him by singer/songwriter and good friend, Rahel Limor. Issachar invited me to visit him in his home in NYC and while there, he showed me his recording studio in his home, complete with keyboards, Mac computer system, ProTools, Waves, etc. He is amazingly active, sending files to me using Dropbox, while engineers and musicians are busy recording in his studio, ... all this at age 93!
This is Issachar in 1950 (below), when "Tzena Tzena" was released by the Weavers. Within a short time, the song would be recorded by all the stars in America including Bing Crosby, Ray Charles, Pearl Bailey, the Smothers Brothers, just to name a few. This is Issachar at the beginning of his rise to fame.
I extracted the following from Issachar's website and made this edited version for you. The new video of the new, RebbeSoul remake of "Tzena Tzena" follows this story.
Issachar Miron was born in Kutno, Poland, in 1920. Miron’s mother, Haya Helen Elbaum-Michrowski, an accomplished pianist, died in 1927 at the age of thirty-six, when Issachar was 7 years old. His father, Shlomo Michrowski, a shopkeeper and an ordained rabbi was a gifted violin virtuoso. He and his family along with some 7000 Kutno Jews lived and suffered between 1941 and 1942 in the Kutno Ghetto, officially named by the Nazis, “Judenlager Konstancja."
In March 1942, virtually all the Jews of Kutno perished in Chelmno, on the river Ner—the very first Nazi death camp of the “final solution for the Jewish question.” They were buried in ditches they were forced to dig in the nearby Rzurzowski Forest, prior to being shoved into the poison gas vans.
Issachar Miron's father, Rabbi and concert-violinist Shlomo Michrowski (right), his sister, Lusia-Tsipora Michrowski, and his brother, Moshe Pinchas Michrowski, who all perished in the Holocaust, pictured with Issachar Miron (standing) who remains the sole survivor of his entire family.
Issachar settled in Palestine, after serving in the Jewish Brigade of the British Army where he wrote the music to "Tzena Tzena," during the Second World War. When the State of Israel was established, he was named the National Deputy Director of Music, assisting Frank Peleg, the world-renowned piano virtuoso, who served as the National Music Director for Israel's Ministry of Education and Culture. He was also appointed as the National Officer-in-Chief of Art and Music Programs for the IDF.
In the United States, as a professor, he served as the Dean of the Music Faculty at the Jewish Teachers Seminary and the Herzliah Teachers Institute, both in New York City. He is a recipient of ASCAP’s Deems Taylor Award for creative writing, and a winner of the Israel Engel Prize for Music.
His songs, film scores, and instrumental works are many and include "Tzena Tzena" with Hebrew lyrics by Yehiel Hagiz, English lyrics by Gordon Jenkins and Mitchell Parish. The song was popularized in the United States by The Weavers and other major artists who subsequently performed and recorded "Tzena Tzena" include Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Arlo Guthrie, Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Pearl Bailey, Frank Sinatra, Vic Damone, Connie Francis, Chubby Checker, Dusty Springfield, Eartha Kitt, the Smothers Brothers, Neil Sedaka, Barry Sisters, Chet Atkins, Metropolitan Opera singers, including: Richard Tucker, Jan Peerce, Misha Raitzin, Roberta Peters, The London Symphony, Mantovani Symphonic Strings, and others. "Tzena Tzena" has been covered over 600 times.
Issachar Miron lives in New York, N.Y. with his wife of 67 years, Tsipora, a concert pianist, who served on the faculty of the Music Academy in Tel Aviv, Israel. They have three daughters, seven grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter.
Issachar Miron is listed in Encyclopedia Judaica (Jerusalem), Who’s Who in the East (U.S.A.), Who’s Who in Israel, Who’s Who in ASCAP, Who’s Who in ACUM, AGAC Directory, Who’s Who in World Jewry, the International Platform Association Directory USA, and The New Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians.
The night before meeting Issachar Miron, I was at my friend Dan Gil's recording studio in Sharon, Massachusetts. I played a few African guitar parts to a click which seemed to fit the song and took it in different direction, away from the "boom chick" rhythm that all the earlier versions had. Later, I played a "4 on the floor" African groove called kawiato, which is used a lot from Township music to Trance. Speaking of Township music, I called my good friend Keith Hutchinson in Johannesburg, South Africa who played in Johnny Clegg and Savuka among many other amazing projects and he contributed some excellent tracks. I then added some of my favorite musicians and singers in Israel to participate. So there is Amharic from Zemene Melesse and Mulu, Spanish from Argentinian/Cuban singer Jaime Granco, Hebrew from Shlomit Levi, Roi Levy, and Dvir Cohen, and so on.
Check it out. Just click below on the picture...
|Dancing at a kibbutz|