The Full Wiki

More info on If I Were a Rich Man (song)

If I Were a Rich Man (song): Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"If I Were a Rich Man" is a song from the 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof. It was written by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock. The song is performed by Tevye, the main character in the musical, and reflects his dreams of glory.

The title is inspired by a 1902 monologue by Sholem Aleichem in Yiddish, Ven ikh bin Rothschild (If I were Rothschild), a reference to the wealth of the Rothschild family, although the content is quite different. The lyric is based in part on passages from Sholem Aleichem’s 1899 short story "The Bubble Bursts." Both stories appeared in English in a 1949 collection of stories entitled Tevye's Daughters.[1]


Lyrics and style

The song is broken into four verses, with a bridge between the third and fourth and a chorus sung at the beginning of the song, and after the second and fourth verses.

Musically, it is written in a Jewish Klezmer style. In fact, the tune is almost identical to the second theme in the third movement of Gustav Mahler's 1st Symphony, "The Titan."

Through the first two verses, Tevye dreams of the material comforts that wealth would bring him. Sung boisterously and comedically, Tevye first considers the enormous house he would buy and the needless luxuries he would fill it with, including a third staircase "leading nowhere, just for show," then the poultry he would buy to fill his yard.

Tevye switches his attention to the luxuries in which he would shower his wife, Golde, in the third verse. He talks of servants to alleviate her workload, fancy clothes for her pleasure, and mountains of food. The song is sung in the same boisterous, comedic style.

The music and vocals intensify during the bridge, when Tevye starts lamenting his place in the community as a lowly milkman, and considers the esteem and importance that wealth would bring him.

In the final verse, Tevye saddens and softens as he considers his devotion to his faith. He expresses his sorrow that the long working hours he keeps prevents him from spending as much time in the synagogue as he would like, and how wealth would allow him to spend less time working and more time praying and studying Torah.

Versions and translations

In the 1980s Frankie Vaughan recorded his version for his album love hits and high kicks.

In 1967 Ronnie Hilton recorded a version as did Roger Whittaker. In the same year, Herschel Bernardi charted with his version (Billboard "Bubbling Under The Top 100", Record World "Non-Rock" surveys).

In 1968, the song was covered in French: "Ah! Si j'étais riche," by Ivan Rebroff, and "Si j'avais des millions," with lyrics by Charles Aznavour and sung by Dalida.

Big Boss and Winsome then made a new French version: "Ah! Si j'étais riche" (different from Ivan Rebroff's version).

In 1970, the Romanian rock band Mondial released a cover of the song on an EP featuring gifted singer Gică Petrescu, together with "The Impossible Dream" (previously recorded by Jack Jones in 1966) and another two covers. Only the chorus and first couplet can be heard on this recording, mainly because of the timing limitations a single disc carries.

In 1983, Matthew Smith used it as the background music in the seminal ZX Spectrum game Jet Set Willy.

Indie band The Magnetic Fields have also done a cover of this song on the Fiddler on the Roof tribute album, Knitting on the Roof.

In 1993, it was covered as a ragga version by the British Louchie Lou & Michie One, as "Rich Girl". Lady Saw covered it in 1999, as well as Gwen Stefani and Eve for Stefani's debut solo album Love. Angel. Music. Baby. in 2004.

The song was parodied in an episode of The Man Show, which featured Jimmy Kimmel as a little person, accompanied by a song entitled “If I Were a Midget.”

Allan Sherman sang a satire on the song as "If I were a Tishman" about building structures in the big cities, from his album "Together".

An easter egg on the Spider-Man 2 DVD set features Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) singing the song. Molina had played the role of Tevye on Broadway.

In the parody musical A Shoggoth on the Roof, based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, the character Obed Marsh sings a parody of the song entitled "If I were a Deep One".

The Hebrew version lyrics (first released in 1965) are taken directly from the original Sholem Aleichem story. The title and chorus are "לו הייתי רוטשילד" Lu hayiti Rotshild: 'If I were Rothschild'.

The song was heard in the King of Queens episode "Hi-Def Jam".


  1. ^ Tevye's Daughters, by Sholom Aleichem, translated by Frances Butwin (1949). "The Bubble Bursts" appears on pages 1–15, "If I Were Rothschild" on pages 16–19.

External links



Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address