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 October 23rd, 1950 (San Francisco)
Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1911 - 1957
Roles Represented in DAHR: baritone vocal, composer, songwriter, lyricist, speaker, whistling
Recordings (Results 1-25 of 633 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|
Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Jolson, Al," accessed August 4, 2021, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/102089.
Jolson, Al. (2021). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved August 4, 2021, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/102089.
"Jolson, Al." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2021. Web. 4 August 2021.
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