Al Jolson

Entertainer Al Jolson

Al Jolson, born Asa Yoelson on May 26, 1886, in Srednik, Lithuania, was a famous American singer, comedian, and actor. Known as “The World’s Greatest Entertainer,” Jolson’s dynamic stage presence and powerful singing voice made him one of the most popular performers of his time. While Al Jolson was an iconic figure in the entertainment industry, it is essential to remember and acknowledge the racially insensitive aspects of his career, specifically his use of blackface, when discussing his contributions to American music and culture.
  • Jolson immigrated to the United States with his family as a young child, eventually settling in Washington, D.C.
  • He began his career in vaudeville and burlesque, performing in blackface as a minstrel show entertainer.
  • Jolson’s first Broadway appearance came in 1911 in the musical “La Belle Paree.”
  • He gained fame for his signature song, “Mammy,” which he first performed in the 1921 Broadway musical “Bombo.”
  • Jolson is best known for starring in the first-ever talking motion picture, “The Jazz Singer” (1927).
  • “The Jazz Singer” was a groundbreaking film that marked the transition from silent movies to sound films.
  • Jolson was the first to win the Best Actor award at the first-ever Academy Awards ceremony in 1929 for his role in “The Jazz Singer.”
  • His other popular songs include “Swanee,” “April Showers,” “Toot, Toot, Tootsie,” and “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody.”
  • Jolson’s vocal style, characterized by its emotional intensity and conversational delivery, influenced future generations of singers, including Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland.
  • He was known for his energetic and charismatic stage performances, often running up and down the stage and interacting with the audience.
  • Jolson was the first performer to entertain American troops overseas during World War II.
  • He recorded over 200 songs throughout his career.
  • Jolson was married four times, most notably to actress Ruby Keeler.
  • His career experienced a resurgence in the late 1940s with the release of the biographical film “The Jolson Story” (1946).
  • Jolson’s life story was further depicted in the sequel, “Jolson Sings Again” (1949).
  • Jolson was among the first inductees into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.
  • Despite his success and popularity, Jolson’s legacy has been tainted by his use of blackface, a racist practice widely criticized in modern times.
  • In 2000, Jolson was posthumously awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the music industry.
  • His life and career have been the subject of numerous books and documentaries.
  • Al Jolson passed away on October 23, 1950, at the age of 64