Sholom Secunda was a songwriter, not a fisherman. But he could tell you all about the “one that got away.”
When Secunda sold a catchy Yiddish tune to a publisher in 1932, he did so for $30, or about $500 today. But when a-relatively-unknown trio of sisters released the song six years later, it went on to sell millions. Here are the Andrews Sisters in 1938 with “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon”
As you can hear, the only Yiddish that remained in the song was the title, though it was also printed as the German “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon”. But anyway you say it, it translates as “To Me, You Are Beautiful.” It put the Andrews Sisters on the map, and was the first gold record by a female vocal group.
And as for poor Sholom Secunda… Not all stories have happy endings...but this one does:
“Remarkably, Secunda was not bitter about losing out on more than $350,000 in royalties throughout the years. As he told The New York Times, ‘”It bothered everyone else more than it bothered me. I’ve been more interested in my symphonic music.”‘
Fortunately for Secunda, the story of his most popular composition has a happy ending. In 1961, the copyright on “Bei Mir Bist Du Schön” expired, reverting ownership to Secunda and Jacobs. They immediately signed a contract with Harms, Inc., the music publishing company that had acquired the rights from the Kammen brothers. This time Secunda negotiated for himself the full percentage of the composer’s royalties. Current copyright law holds that this will remain in effect until 75 years after his death.“