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Al Jolson

Anyone else a fan? He seems to be remembered as just a curiosity nowadays, when he was actually a great singer. He may not have been subtle, but his singing has an energy and emotionality that stands out among the generally antiseptic-sounding white singers of his era, IMO.

I remember reading here that he was gay. Is that true?

by Anonymousreply 5202/24/2013

A few years ago there was a Bway musical called JOLSON; I have the CD which was pretty good. I've always liked him, even despite the blackface thing. He's a throwback to a forgotten era, but a great singer nonetheless. Had one lung removed and still kept singing!

by Anonymousreply 204/25/2011

Ugh. HATED him with a passion. Did you know he was a NASTY NASTY man who was totally insecure and brutal to anyone who he felt was a threat to him? He would turn the water faucet on extra loud in his dressing room, for instance, to drown out the sound of anyone singing onstage that he thought was a threat to him.

And he was hammy, corny and over the top even BACK IN THE DAY. My grandfather said that people HATED him back THEN, even.

by Anonymousreply 304/25/2011

He was Asa Yoelson at Bar Mitzvah time.

by Anonymousreply 404/25/2011

unfortunately for him, Black-face is simply on the wrong side of history.

by Anonymousreply 504/25/2011

The black face is extremely unfortunate and cringeworthy. However, my great-grandfather saw him perform and told me when I was a kid that he was great entertainer overall and did not always perform in blackface; I think that is what he is remember for though.

by Anonymousreply 604/25/2011

It's interesting that the very biggest singing stars of each decade: Jolson in the 20s, Crosby in the 30s, Sinatra in the 40s and Pat Boone in the 50s were all vile men.

by Anonymousreply 704/25/2011

I get that it was a throwback to the Vaudville era, but what exactly was the reason for performing in blackface? It's not like he was putting on some comedic shtick.

by Anonymousreply 804/25/2011

I've listened to recordings and have never heard him utter a single syllable of any duration that didn't make me want to pummel him senseless with a frozen brisket.

by Anonymousreply 904/25/2011

He performed in blackface when he was singing minstrel songs from a previous era in American music. There were minstrel shows touring all over the country. Stephen Foster was one of the composers who wrote for minstrel shows. Some of the touring shows had all Black singers performing in "blackface" with white around their mouth. Some of their choral songs were spectacular.

by Anonymousreply 1004/25/2011

Well, hell, even Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney performed in blackface in Babes on Broadway in 1941. It was NOT culturally a no-no back then. Doesn't make it right, though. But it was accepted. In fact, they had to film Judy and Mickey shown putting ON the make-up because test audiences could not tell it was even THEM!

by Anonymousreply 1104/25/2011

He must've scared people shitless. Yikes!

by Anonymousreply 1204/25/2011

Love him.

Reminds me so much of riding shotgun in my grandfather's Caddy around Miami Beach. There must have been an all Jolson radio station in Miami back in the day!!

Rock-a-bye your baby, with a Dixie melody... when you croon, croon a tune from the heart of Dixie. A million baby kisses, I'll deliver, if you will only sing the Swanee River... And hang that cradle, oh mammy mine, right upon that old Mason-Dixon line, and swing it from Virginia to Tennessee with all the love that's in ya!

Black face, unfortunate, but well accepted at the time.

by Anonymousreply 1304/25/2011

[quote]I get that it was a throwback to the Vaudville era, but what exactly was the reason for performing in blackface?

Jolson wasn't a throwback, he was an actual star during the vaudeville era. Minstrel shows were often amateur performances during the 19th century. White people used black-face because performing (especially popular, low-brow material) in public was still seen by many as an unwholesome exercise. Black-face granted the amateur performer temporary anonymity to entertain his friends and neighbors. The practice became its own tradition lasting into the first half of the 20th century.

by Anonymousreply 1404/25/2011

Al Jolson's popularity and long career is another of show biz/s many enduring mysteries.

by Anonymousreply 1504/26/2011

Whenever I think of a real "old-timey" entertainer who is hopelessly out of date, I always think of Al Jolson. Eddie Cantor is a close second. Their popularity is mystifying to a contemporary person.

by Anonymousreply 1604/26/2011

Film buffs who like him insist that he was much better live than on film. "The Jazz Singer" is actually a pretty bad performance for Jolson. "Wonder Bar" is better, as is "Hallelujah I'm a Bum."

However, his performances are extremely dated, especially to modern audiences, and no matter how many times someone tells me otherwise, I just can't believe he was considered the best entertainer when it came to films.

by Anonymousreply 1704/26/2011

r3 - That's some magic plumbing if a tap on full can drown out a singer some distance away.

by Anonymousreply 1904/26/2011

He was revolutionary in his time. Before Jolson, singers/entertainers pretty much were composed, sedate and did not really 'connect' with their audiences. He was the first entertainer to go out there and really "let 'em have it". It may look silly now but no one had ever seen anything like him back then.

by Anonymousreply 2004/26/2011

Sophie Tucker and Will Rogers are 2 other huge stars who don't come across well on film.

by Anonymousreply 2104/26/2011

Joan Rivers works out to the music of Al Jolson.

by Anonymousreply 2204/26/2011

r19, read the article at link.

by Anonymousreply 2304/26/2011

r7 what did Pat Boone do that made you think he was "vile?"

by Anonymousreply 2404/26/2011

I'm ancient by DL standards and even I think Al Jolson is prehistoric.

Was Pat Boone really the biggest male singer of the '50s by sales? I think there were many others who personify that decade more than him.

by Anonymousreply 2504/26/2011

[quote]Black-face granted the amateur performer temporary anonymity to entertain his friends and neighbors. %0D %0D It had nothing to do with hiding from friends and neighbors. There were huge minstrel shows that hired vocalists for major tours in the way that we see Broadway shows on tour today. The sheet music can be found in the Library of Congress. It took trained singers to perform many of those choral works. It's not like a group of neighbors were saying "Let's put on a show." These were professional show groups.

by Anonymousreply 2604/26/2011

Here's the "Mammy" number from "The Jazz Singer." Speechless.

by Anonymousreply 2704/26/2011

Jolson's gravesite is so over-the-top it's funny. You would think a king or queen had been buried there. What an ego.

by Anonymousreply 2804/26/2011

Like Sinatra, Jolson was actually a pioneer in making sure that the black people that he performed with were able to eat and stay at white only restaurants and hotels, Unheard of in that time period.

by Anonymousreply 2904/27/2011

From Wikipedia: Jolson first heard African-American music, such as jazz, blues, and ragtime, played in the back alleys of New Orleans, Louisiana. He enjoyed singing the new jazz-style of music, and it's not surprising that he often performed in blackface, especially songs he made popular, like Swanee, My Mammy, and Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody. In most of his movie roles, however, including a singing hobo in Hallelujah, I'm a Bum or a jailed convict in Say It With Songs, he chose to act without using blackface. In the 1927 film The Jazz Singer, he performed only a few songs, including My Mammy, in blackface, although there was nothing in the storyline that required a black singer.

While growing up, he had many black friends, including Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson, who later became a legendary tap dancer."[9] As early as 1911, at the age of 25, he was already noted for fighting discrimination on the Broadway stage and later in his movies:

* "at a time when black people were banned from starring on the Broadway stage," he promoted the play by black playwright Garland Anderson, which became the first production with an all-black cast ever produced on Broadway; * he brought an all-black dance team from San Francisco that he tried to feature in his Broadway show; * he demanded equal treatment for Cab Calloway with whom he performed a number of duets in his movie The Singing Kid. * he was "the only white man allowed into an all black nightclub in Harlem;" * he once read in the newspaper that songwriters Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle, neither of whom he had ever heard of, were refused service at a Connecticut restaurant because of their race. He immediately tracked them down and took them out to dinner "insisting he'd punch anyone in the nose who tried to kick us out!"

Jeni LeGon, a black female tap dance star, recalls her life as a film dancer: "But of course, in those times it was a 'black-and-white world.' You didn't associate too much socially with any of the stars. You saw them at the studio, you know, nice %E2%80%94 but they didn't invite. The only ones that ever invited us home for a visit was Al Jolson and Ruby Keeler."[27] Brian Conley, former star of the 1995 British play Jolson, stated during an interview, "I found out Jolson was actually a hero to the black people of America. At his funeral, black actors lined the way, they really appreciated what he%E2%80%99d done for them."[28] Noble Sissle, then president of the Negro Actors' Guild, represented that organization at his funeral.

Jolson's physical expressiveness also affected the music styles of some black performers. Music historian Bob Gulla writes that "the most critical influence in Jackie Wilson's young life was Al Jolson." He points out that Wilson's ideas of what a stage performer could do to keep their act an "exciting" and "thrilling performance" was shaped by Jolson's acts, "full of wild writhing and excessive theatrics." Wilson felt that Jolson, along with Louis Jordan, another of his idols, "should be considered the stylistic forefathers of rock and roll."[30]

According to the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture: "Almost single-handedly, Jolson helped to introduce African-American musical innovations like jazz, ragtime, and the blues to white audiences.... [and] paved the way for African-American performers like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, and Ethel Waters.... to bridge the cultural gap between black and white America."[1] Jazz hi

by Anonymousreply 3004/27/2011

Speaking of "The Jazz Singer", I know it was remade in 1952 with Danny Thomas and later with Neal Diamond. But apparently it was also remade in 1959 with Jerry Lewis!?! As a TV movie. Has anyone ever seen the Jerry Lewis one?

by Anonymousreply 3109/09/2011

Bout a Quarter To Nine

by Anonymousreply 3209/09/2011

He was as straight as the come.

He makes my skin crawl. Can't stand him.

by Anonymousreply 3309/09/2011

Al Jolson is so corny and hammy by today's standards. He was one of the biggest stars of his day, however.

by Anonymousreply 3409/09/2011

A few years ago I finally saw The Jazz Singer and presentation was ideal - at a theater that shows old films.%0D %0D On the one hand, it was interesting to imagine what it would have been like back then to see a movie that had moments of singing and talking at a time when that didn't exist. In fact I thought the scene with Jolson at the piano interacting with his mother was kind of touching.%0D %0D But ultimately the blackface was just unsettling and creepy.

by Anonymousreply 3509/09/2011

I heard him recently on an old-time radio hour on NPR. His singing is simply awful.

by Anonymousreply 3609/09/2011

I understand his support and love of "black" music contributed to positive race relations in his time. I doubt the opinions of his peers in those days was as inspiring. Glad he was here.

by Anonymousreply 3702/22/2013

[quote]It's interesting that the very biggest singing stars of each decade: Jolson in the 20s, Crosby in the 30s, Sinatra in the 40s and Pat Boone in the 50s were all vile men.

Bing Crosby had good p.r. people. But I never heard any claims of Pat Boone being "vile." I know he's a Fundie, but I thought he was well-liked and was nice to people during his time of popularity.

by Anonymousreply 3802/24/2013

Plus, Crosby was still huge in the 1940s; Sinatra was biggest in the late 50s-mid 60s; Pat Boone was popular but hardly the biggest singer of the 50s.

by Anonymousreply 3902/24/2013

Well, OP...hmm...i can't say that i feel pleasure by listening to his songs. His voice is not my cup of tea,it's kinda too funny, however i find it cute that you are a fan of his. Yeah.

:)

by Anonymousreply 4002/24/2013

Sinatra burst on the pops scene in the late 40s. By the mid-50s, everyone knew he was married to the mob.

by Anonymousreply 4102/24/2013

R41, Sinatra "burst onto the pop scene" in the EARLY 40's, dimwit.

by Anonymousreply 4202/24/2013

I don't know much about Jolson as a person, but I remember back in the 60s, the local old movie station played The Al Jolson Story on day when I was home sick, and what always stayed with me was the scene where his despairing parents had sent him to Catholic School in order to straighten him up. They came to visit him and, somehow, he got talking about show business and his brief escapades in vaudville, and his face lit up as he talked about how to work an audience.

That is the big difference between then and now -- then, there were many people in the business because they loved the business with all their hearts. Now, its The Industry and everyone in it just loves the money.

by Anonymousreply 4302/24/2013

Didn't Judy base her entire career on him?

by Anonymousreply 4402/24/2013

Hey, Al Jolson, kiss my BLACK ass!!!

by Anonymousreply 4502/24/2013

Sinatra was a teenie bopper singing idol when he "burst" on the scene in the early 1940s. It wasn't until the late fifties that he was taken seriously as an actor and singer. Things didn't happen so fast then and they were all married to the mob since the mob ran the nightclub biz.

by Anonymousreply 4602/24/2013

Ancient gay thread

by Anonymousreply 4702/24/2013

Don't especially like Al Jolson, I can sort of tolerate him though, unlike the Carpenters of a later decade--I hated them like I despise the Waltons on TV. What I do like are the impressionists who sort of make fun of Al Jolson, they are funny as hell usually.

by Anonymousreply 4802/24/2013

That blackface shit is so uncomfortable to watch today, but back then it was mass entertainment. Hard to believe.

by Anonymousreply 4902/24/2013

Even stranger when we look back in American history, is that Black entertainers put on blackface makeup. If they had been standing alongside someone like a Jolson from that era, they would have looked alike to the audience.

While I know about the all-Black choral groups that toured in minstrel shows in the U.S., I wonder if any of them did European tours, too. Did their music reach the ears of people in Europe?

by Anonymousreply 5002/24/2013

Well, i was wrong about him. I gave him a second chance with the pop-up of this thread. Some of his songs are moving and his voice is not only funny when the song is lovely...

So far the songs that made me change my mind about his voice and about his durability in time are

. When I Leave The World Behind

. Avalon

. April Showers

However, i find boring and slightly annoying 'Swanee' and 'I'm Sitting On Top Of The World (Just Rolling Along)

by Anonymousreply 5102/24/2013

"The Anniversary Song" was one of his hits. It was an adaption of a Romanian waltz "Waves of the Danube."

by Anonymousreply 5202/24/2013
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