If I Were A Rich Man

Album: Fiddler on the Roof (1964)
  • Composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick wrote this for Fiddler on the Roof's lead character, Tevye, a poor Jewish milkman on the brink of being evicted from his village in early-1900s Russia. In the song, Tevye contemplates what it would be like to be wealthy, how he could lavish his family with gifts and have more time to spend in the synagogue. Actor Zero Mostel, who originated the role of Tevye on Broadway in 1964, introduced the song.
  • Fiddler on the Roof was based on Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem's series of short stories about Tevye the Dairyman, and this song in particular was inspired by the 1899 short story "The Bubble Bursts" and the 1902 monologue "If I were a Rothschild." The Rothschilds were a wealthy family who amassed a fortune in the international banking business.
  • Gwen Stefani adapted this into the pop hit "Rich Girl" for her 2004 solo debut album Love. Angel. Music. Baby. Stefani, who had already found fame and fortune as the lead singer of No Doubt, remembers when she was just a girl from Orange County yearning for the spotlight.
  • Massive Attack sampled this on "Daydreaming" from their 1991 debut album, Blue Lines.
  • Harnick told NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross that Bock was inspired to write the tune after he heard a mother and daughter perform a Hasidic chant at a Hebrew Actors Union benefit. He added: "I was very conscious of a phrase that kept recurring in the Sholom Aleichem stories. 'Ah, if only I were a rich man. Ah, if only I had money,' you know. And this song - I don't remember exactly why, but it seemed to be the right music for that."
  • Actor Topol performed this when he took on the role of Tevye for the 1971 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof.

Comments: 1

  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaAmen to it's No great honor either. Loved the character of Tevya.
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