DAS LILA LIED – THE LAVENDER SONG – “We just happen to be Different from the Others!”

My recent posts about the Newfest LGBT Film festival included an enthusiastic look at the handsomely restored print of the first known movie to sympathetically portray homosexuality, Germany’s 1919 “Anders als die Andern” (“Different than the Others”).

Soon after posting that piece, a Berlin friend of mine drew my attention to one of the earliest known gay anthems, also from the early German Weimar era: “Das Lila Lied”, “The Lavender Song”, written for performance in the Berlin Cabaret scene in 1920 with lyrics by Kurt Schwabach and music by Misha Spoliansky, and first recorded 1921 by the Marek Weber Orchestra.


Different than the Others

What immediately struck me was the prominent use of the phrase “Anders als die Andern” in the first line of the refrain – the song could just as well be called “Anders als die Andern” as much as “Das Lila Lied” – as if the lyrics were directly inspired by the movie of that name and that subject, which had made quite an impression in 1919, and was banned from cinemas by 1920.

According to Wikipedia, the song was written after the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute for Sexual Science) under Magnus Hirschfeld made worldwide news with its “First International Conference for Sexual Reform” which called for regulations on sexual behavior to be based on science instead of religion or other unscientific tradition.

Of course Magnus Hirschfeld was also one of the co-creators of “Anders als die Andern”, so I think it possible the phrase was even coined as well as popularized by Hirshfeld himself.  At the very least, from the evidence of the movie and the song, it was widely used to draw sympathetic attention to the plight of the homosexual in society.

Below are the full lyrics of the song and an English translation.  The recording above only includes the lyrics from the refrain, not the verses.  So far I haven’t found a recording that includes the verses, but we can feel certain that they were sung live in Berlin Cabarets of the 1920’s.  The video above also includes great glimpses into Gay life of 1920’s Berlin, the time of “Cabaret“, before the Nazis destroyed the new social freedoms of the Post-WW1 era.

Was will man nur?
Ist das Kultur,
daß jeder Mensch verpönt ist,
der klug und gut,
jedoch mit Blut
von eig’ner Art durchströmt ist,
daß g’rade die
vor dem Gesetz verbannt ist,
die im Gefühl
bei Lust und Spiel
und in der Art verwandt ist?

Und dennoch sind die Meisten stolz,
daß sie von ander’m Holz!

What do they want?
Is this Culture
that every man is outlawed
who is – wise and well-,
however with blood
of his own kind perfused
that nevertheless this
is banned by the law,
who is in feeling
in lust and playing
and in its kind related?

And still most of us are proud,
to be cut from different cloth!

Wir sind nun einmal anders als die Andern,
die nur im Gleichschritt der Moral geliebt,
neugierig 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 and’rer Welten Kind,
wir lieben nur die lila Nacht, die schwül ist,
weil wir ja anders als die Andern sind.

We are just different from the others
who are being loved only in lockstep of morality
who wander curiously through a thousand wonders
and who are only up to the trivial.
But we do not know what the feeling is
since we are all children of a different kind of world
we only love lavender night, who is sultry
because we are just different from the others!

Wozu die Qual,
uns die Moral
der Andern aufzudrängen?
Wir, hört geschwind,
sind wie wir sind,
selbst wollte man uns hängen.
Wer aber denkt,
daß man uns hängt,
den müßte man beweinen,
doch bald, gebt acht,
wird über Nacht
auch uns’re Sonne scheinen.

Dann haben wir das gleiche Recht erstritten,
wir leiden nicht mehr, sondern sind gelitten!

Why the torment
to impose
morals of others on us?
We, listen to this,
are what we are,
even if they want to hang us.
But who thinks,
that we are going to be hanged
for that one we would have to feel sorry
but soon, listen up,
all of a sudden
our sun will be shining too.

Then we will have contended successfully for our rights
we will not suffer anymore, but we will be tolerated!

About dannyashkenasi

I'm a composer with over 40 years experience creating music theater. I'm also an actor, writer, director, producer, teacher and general enthusiast for the arts.
This entry was posted in Cinema Scope, LGBTQ Alphabet Soup, Melodies Linger On, Notes in the News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to DAS LILA LIED – THE LAVENDER SONG – “We just happen to be Different from the Others!”

  1. Eliese Besemer says:

    So, I don’t know of any other original recordings from that era, but, there is a recording from the 90s by Ute Lemper, on her Berlin Cabaret Songs album (1997). There is a German version of the CD and an English version.

    Liked by 1 person

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