Al Jolson

American entertainer, actor, and singer (1886-1950)

Al Jolson (May 26, 1886 – October 23, 1950) was a Lithuanian - American singer and actor. His career lasted from 1911 until his death in 1950. He was called "the world's greatest entertainer”.[1]

Al Jolson
Al Jolson - publicity.JPG
Background information
Birth nameAsa Yoelson
Born(1886-05-26)May 26, 1886
Seredžius, Lithuania, Russian Empire
DiedOctober 23, 1950(1950-10-23) (aged 64)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Pop standards
Years active1911–1950
LabelsVictor, Columbia, Little Wonder, Brunswick, Decca
WebsiteThe Al Jolson Society

His singing style was "sentimental [and] melodramatic". This style made many songs popular.[2] Jolson influenced many famous singers. Some of these singers were Bing Crosby[3] Judy Garland, rock and country entertainer Jerry Lee Lewis, and Bob Dylan. Dylan said Jolson was "somebody whose life I can feel".[4]

Jolson was America's most famous and highest paid entertainer in the 1930s.[5] Jolson sang and acted in the first (full length) talking movie, The Jazz Singer in 1927. He starred in many other musical movies in the 1930s. A movie about Jolson's life, The Jolson Story, won Oscars in 1946. Larry Parks played Jolson, but Jolson sang the songs himself. A sequel, Jolson Sings Again, was released in 1949, and was nominated for three Oscars. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Jolson became the first star to entertain troops overseas during World War II. Again in 1950 became the first star to perform for GIs in Korea. He did 42 shows in 16 days.

He sometimes performed in blackface makeup. This was a theatrical convention in the mid-19th century. With his unique and dynamic style of singing black music, like jazz and blues, he was later credited with single-handedly introducing African-American music to white audiences.[6] As early as 1911 he became known for fighting against anti-black discrimination on Broadway. Jolson's well-known theatrics and his promotion of equality on Broadway helped pave the way for many black performers, playwrights, and songwriters, including Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, and Ethel Waters.



Famous songsEdit

  • That Haunting Melodie (1911) Jolson's first hit.
  • Ragging the Baby to Sleep (1912)
  • The Spaniard That Blighted My Life (1912)
  • That Little German Band (1913)
  • You Made Me Love You (1913)
  • Back to the Carolina You Love (1914)
  • Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula (1916)
  • I Sent My Wife to the Thousand Isles (1916)
  • I'm All Bound Round With the Mason Dixon Line (1918)
  • Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody (1918)
  • Tell That to the Marines (1919)
  • I'll Say She Does (1919)
  • I've Got My Captain Working for Me Now (1919)
  • Swanee (1919)
  • Avalon (1920)
  • O-H-I-O (O-My! O!) (1921)
  • April Showers (1921)
  • Angel Child (1922)
  • Coo Coo' (1922)
  • Oogie Oogie Wa Wa (1922)
  • That Wonderful Kid From Madrid (1922)
  • Toot, Toot, Tootsie (1922)
  • Juanita (1923)
1922 sheet music


  1. "Al Jolson". Broadway: The American Musical.
  2. Ruhlmann, William (1950-10-23). "All Music Guide entry". Retrieved 2010-03-05.
  3. Gilliland, John (1994). Pop Chronicles the 40s: The Lively Story of Pop Music in the 40s (audiobook). ISBN 978-1-55935-147-8. OCLC 31611854. Cassette 3, side B.
  4. Dix, Andrew and Taylor, Jonathan. Figures of Heresy, Sussex Academic Press (2006), pg. 176; quoted from Dylan's book, Biograph (1985)
  5. Bainbridg, Beryl. Front Row: Evenings at the Theatre, Continuum International Publishing (2005), pg. 109
  6. "Broadway: The American Musical . Stars Over Broadway . Al Jolson". PBS. Archived from the original on 2004-10-21. Retrieved 2010-06-01.

Other websitesEdit