Shampoo Queen

My mom recently got me an album that I asked for, it is the songs behind the scandalous play Shampoo Queen, by Hanoch Levin, that premiered in 1970 in the Cameri theater. The play lasted 19 showings, and was taken down amid public outcry. Levin, a sharp and critical satirist, managed to slaughter every holy cow in the Israel of 1970. Israel at the time was at the hight of euphoria after a sweeping victory in the Six Day War of 1967. Levin questioned the principles that Israeli society’s solidarity and pride were based upon, with a play composed of short skits, dialogs and songs that ridiculed Israel’s leaders and public opinion. After the play’s cast was subjected to different kinds of abuse and threats during the performance, the Cameri decided to stop the play, ultimately because the government threatened to stop funding the theater. Levin gave a cynical public apology in Haaretz (loosely translated):

Public Criticism

The honorable defense minister, mayors, public figures, journalists, radio and television, teachers, and masters.
Embarassed and ashamed, and also overwhelmed with gratitude I stand here before you today. Your sincere and inexhaustible efforts to take down “The Shampoo Queen” opened my eyes and made me contemplate again on what I have written. Now, with the play taken off the stage of the “Cameri Theater”, I could admit with a bowed head: I was wrong. I took advantage of the principles of democracy and freedom to undermine the morale of the public, to abuse and ridicule Israel’s struggles, and to disseminate confusion and loathing in a united nation; and all this using banal words, evidence of my psychosis.
I repeal every word and punctuation that I wrote. I ask of you all, in a humble voice, to attribute my mistakes with my young age, and the substandard education I received from my parents
And with this request for forgiveness, I hope I will get another chance to prove myself with productive work as a beneficial citizen – for the glory of the state and nation.

There are two songs from the play that I would like to translate for y’all. The first one is called “Promise”. I really should have posted it after Olmert gave his Churchillian speech this summer about the “blood sweat and tears” that we were to expect from his war (“ of the most justified wars in Israel”). The scene that this is sung in has to do with a government meeting, the singer is the defense minister. I can’t say more than that, since I haven’t actually seen the play, I am too young.


I promise you all blood and tears
– and my word is a real promise –
And if I promise you blood and tears,
everybody knows that it’s blood and tears,
not to speak of sweat.
Soon it will be very bad for you all
– and my word is a real promise –
And if I say that it will be very bad,
you could be assured that it will be very bad,
and maybe even worse than bad.
With no glimmer of hope, you all will continue to live
– and my word is a real promise –
and if I say that you all will continue to live,
then a few of you really will continue to live,
don’t ask for what.

I was first introduced to these lyrics by Dudy Levy, he is a rock musician who came out with an tribute album with Hanoch Levin material. So below I included links to both the original, and the Dudy Levi rendition of this song.

I’ll introduce another song in the near future. Check back in soon.