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Al Jolson

Al Jolson (born Asa Yoelson; 9 June [O.S. 28 May] 1886 – October 23, 1950) was a Lithuanian-American singer, comedian, and actor. He was dubbed "The World's Greatest Entertainer" at the peak of his career. His performing style was brash and extroverted, and he popularized many songs that benefited from his "shamelessly sentimental, melodramatic approach." In the 1920s, Jolson was America's most famous and highest-paid entertainer.

Although best remembered today as the star of the first talking picture, The Jazz Singer (1927), he starred in a series of successful musical films during the 1930s. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, he was the first star to entertain troops overseas during World War II. After a period of inactivity, his stardom returned with The Jolson Story (1946), for which Larry Parks played Jolson, with the singer dubbing for Parks. The formula was repeated in a sequel, Jolson Sings Again (1949). In 1950, he again became the first star to entertain GIs on active service in the Korean War, performing 42 shows in 16 days. He died weeks after returning to the U.S., partly owing to the physical exertion of performing. Defense Secretary George Marshall posthumously awarded him the Medal for Merit.

According to music historian Larry Stempel, "No one had heard anything quite like it before on Broadway." Author Stephen Banfield wrote that Jolson's style was "arguably the single most important factor in defining the modern musical".

Jolson has been dubbed "the king of blackface" performers, a theatrical convention since the mid-19th century. With his dynamic style of singing jazz and blues, he became widely successful by extracting traditionally African-American music and popularizing it for white American audiences who were otherwise not receptive to the originators. Despite his promotion and perpetuation of black stereotypes, his work was often well-regarded by black publications and he has been credited for fighting against black discrimination on Broadway as early as 1911. In an essay written in 2000, music critic Ted Gioia remarked, "If blackface has its shameful poster boy, it is Al Jolson", showcasing Jolson's complex legacy in American society.

Birth and Death Data: Born May 26th, 1886 (Seredžius), Died San Francisco

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1911 - 1957

Roles Represented in DAHR: baritone vocal, composer, songwriter, lyricist, whistling

Recordings (Results 1-25 of 608 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Victor B-11409 10-in. 12/22/1911 That haunting melody Al Jolson Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist, baritone vocal  
Victor B-11410 10-in. 12/22/1911 Rum tum tiddle Al Jolson Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist, baritone vocal  
Victor B-11411 10-in. 12/22/1911 Asleep in the deep : Parody Al Jolson Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist, baritone vocal  
Victor B-11730 10-in. 3/15/1912 The villain song Al Jolson Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist, baritone vocal  
Victor B-11731 10-in. 3/15/1912 My Sumurun girl Al Jolson Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist, baritone vocal, lyricist  
Victor B-11732 10-in. 3/15/1912 Snap your fingers Al Jolson Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist, baritone vocal  
Victor B-11733 10-in. 3/15/1912 Brass band Ephraham Jones Al Jolson Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist, baritone vocal  
Victor B-11883 10-in. 4/17/1912 Ragging the baby to sleep Al Jolson Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist, baritone vocal  
Victor B-11884 10-in. 4/17/1912 That lovin' Traumerei Al Jolson Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist, baritone vocal  
Victor B-11885 10-in. 4/17/1912 Movin' man, don't take my baby grand! Al Jolson Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist, baritone vocal  
Victor B-11886 10-in. 4/17/1912 Uncle Sammy Al Jolson Whistling solo vocalist, whistling  
Victor B-11982 10-in. 5/3/1912 My Sumurun girl Walter Van Brunt Male vocal solo, with orchestra lyricist  
Victor B-12971 10-in. 3/7/1913 My yellow jacket girl Al Jolson Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist, baritone vocal  
Victor B-12972 10-in. 3/7/1913 The Spaniard that blighted my life Al Jolson Male vocal solo, with orchestra vocalist, baritone vocal  
Victor B-21807 10-in. 4/29/1918 Sinbad Waldorf-Astoria Dance Orchestra Jazz/dance band composer  
Victor B-22093 10-in. 9/6/1918 'N' everything Joseph C. Smith's Orchestra Jazz/dance band composer  
Victor B-22265 10-in. 9/30/1918 Tell that to the Marines Billy Murray Male vocal solo, with male vocal quartet and orchestra composer  
Victor B-22358 10-in. 1/4/1919 I'll say she does All Star Trio Instrumental trio composer  
Victor C-23882 12-in. 4/6/1920 I gave her that All Star Trio Instrumental trio composer  
Victor BVE-24391 10-in. 2/7/1928 Avalon Paul Whiteman Orchestra Jazz/dance band songwriter  
Victor B-24617 10-in. 10/8/1920 Avalon John Steel Male vocal solo, with xylophone and orchestra songwriter  
Victor B-24658 10-in. 10/25/1920 Avalon Charles Harrison Male vocal solo, with cornet, 2 xylophones, and orchestra songwriter  
Victor B-25479 10-in. 8/31/1921 Yoo-hoo Hackel-Bergè Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo composer  
Victor B-26214 10-in. 2/23/1922 Old fashioned girl (In a gingham gown) Paul Whiteman Orchestra Jazz/dance band composer  
Victor B-26320 10-in. 4/26/1922 Coo-coo Paul Whiteman Orchestra Jazz/dance band composer  
(Results 1-25 of 608 records)

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Jolson, Al," accessed October 25, 2020, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/102089.

Jolson, Al. (2020). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved October 25, 2020, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/102089.

"Jolson, Al." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2020. Web. 25 October 2020.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/102089

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