- Sophie Tucker
Infobox musical artist
Name = Sophie Tucker
Img_capt = "Sophie Tucker, 1917"
Img_size = 200
Background = solo_singer
Birth_name = Sonia Kalish
January 13, 1884
February 9, 1966
Sophie Tucker (
January 13, 1884– February 9, 1966) was a singerand comedian, one of the most popular entertainers in America during the first two-thirds of the 20th century.
She was born Sonia Kalish to a
Jewishfamily in Tsarist Russia. Her family emigrated to the United Stateswhen she was an infant, and settled in Hartford, Connecticut. The family changed its name to Abuza, and her parents opened a restaurant.
She started singing for tips in her family's restaurant. In 1903, at the age of 19, she was briefly married to Louis Tuck, from which she decided to change her name to "Tucker." (She would marry twice more in her life, but neither marriage lasted more than five years.)
pianoand sang burlesqueand vaudevilletunes, at first in blackface. She later said that this was at the insistence of theatre managers, who said she was "too fat and ugly" to be accepted by an audience in any other context. She even sang songs that acknowledged her heft, such as "Nobody Loves a Fat Girl, But Oh How a Fat Girl Can Love."
She made a name for herself in a style that was known at the time as a "
Coon Shouter", performing African Americaninfluenced songs. Not content with performing in the simple minstrel traditions, Tucker hired some of the best African American singers of the time to give her lessons, and hired African American composers to write songs for her act.
Tucker made her first appearance in the
Ziegfeld Folliesin 1909, but didn't last long there because Florenz Ziegfeld's other female stars soon refused to share the spotlight with the popular Tucker.
William Morris, the founder of the
William Morris Agencybooked Tucker fresh off her Follies debut at his new American Music Hall. At a 1909 appearance, the luggage containing Tucker's makeup kit was stolen shortly before the show, and she hastily went on stage without her customary blackface. Tucker was a bigger hit without her makeup than with it, and, at the advice of Morris, she never wore blackface again. She did, however, continue to draw much of her material from African American writers as well as African American culture, singing in a ragtime- and blues-influenced style, becoming known for a time as "The Mary Gardenof Ragtime ," a reference to a famous operatic sopranoof the era.
Tucker made several popular recordings. They included "Some of These Days," which came out in 1911 on
Edison Records. The tune, written by Shelton Brooks, was a hit, and became Tucker's theme song. Later, it was the title of her 1945 autobiography.
In 1921, Tucker hired
pianistand songwriter Ted Shapiroas her accompanist and musical director, a position he would keep throughout her career. Besides writing a number of songs for Tucker, Shapiro became part of her stage act, playing piano on stage while she sang, and exchanging banter and wisecracks with her in between numbers.
Tucker remained a popular singer through the 1920s, and hired stars such as
Mamie Smithand Ethel Watersto give her lessons.
Jack Yellenwrote one of her most famous songs, "My Yiddish Momme". The song was performed in large American cities where there were sizable Jewish audiences. Tucker explained, "Even though I loved the song and it was a sensational hit every time I sang it, I was always careful to use it only when I knew the majority of the house would understand Yiddish. However, you didn't have to be a Jew to be moved by 'My Yiddish Momme.' 'Mother' in any language means the same thing." She also made the first of her many movie appearances in the 1929 sound picture"Honky Tonk".
In the 1930s, Tucker brought elements of
nostalgiafor the early years of 20th century into her show. She was billed as The Last of the Red Hot Mamas, as her hearty sexualappetite was a frequent subject of her songs, unusual for female performers of the era. She made numerous popular film appearances, including " Broadway Melody of 1938". In that film, Tucker sings a song during the big finale; even though she is playing a character and not herself, several neonlights displaying her real name light up in the background of the stage in tribute.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, she made
televisionappearances on " The Ed Sullivan Show", " What's My Line", " Person to Person", and " The Tonight Show".
She continued performing in the U.S. and the
United Kingdom, until shortly before dying of lung cancerin 1966 at the age of 82.
She was interred at Emanuel Cemetery in
Legacy and influence
Sophie Tucker's comic style is credited with influencing later female entertainers, including
Mae West, Joan Rivers, Roseanne Barr, and most notably Bette Midlerwho has included "Soph" as one of her many stage characters. In addition to her performing, Tucker was active in efforts to unionize professional actors, and was elected president of the American Federation of Actorsin 1938.
* "I've been rich and I've been poor. Believe me, honey, rich is better."
* "From birth to age eighteen, a girl needs good parents. From eighteen to thirty-five she needs good looks. From thirty-five to fifty-five, she needs a good personality. From fifty-five on, she needs good cash."
*"Louisiana Lou" (1911) (Broadway)
*"Earl Carroll's Vanities of 1924" (1924) (Broadway)
Leave It to Me!" (1938) (Broadway)
*"High Kickers" (1941) (Broadway)
*"Honky Tonk" (1929)
*"Gay Love" (1934)
*"Paramount Headliner: Broadway Highlights No. 1" (1935) (short subject)
Broadway Melody of 1938" (1937)
Thoroughbreds Don't Cry" (1937)
*"Follow the Boys" (1944)
*"Sensations of 1945" (1944)
*"Screen Snapshots: The Great Showman" (1950) (short subject)
*"Screen Snapshots: Hollywood's Great Entertainers" (1953) (short subjects)
*"The Heart of Show Business" (1957) (short subject)
The Joker Is Wild" (1957) (Cameo)
The Beatlesincluded the song "Till There Was You" from " The Music Man" in their early repertoire. When they performed the song on the televised 1963 Royal Variety Performance in London, Paul McCartney---who sang their version---got laughs from the studio audience when he introduced it by saying "it's also been recorded by our favourite American group---Sophie Tucker."
* Reference to Tucker is made (using somewhat vulgar language) in the song "Roxie" which is part of the score to the musical, "Chicago".
* The stage musical "Meshuggah-Nuns", a sequel to the hit "Nunsense", features a nun posing as Tucker, singing a song called "My Fat is My Fortune".
* She is referred to in Saul Bellow's book "
The Adventures of Augie March" (1953).
* She is referred to in the television series "Frasier", season 4 episode 9, Dad Loves Sherry, The Boys Just Whine.
* Her song, "Some of these days..." is referred to in Jean-Paul Sartre's "Nausea"She is mentioned several times in the film
* [http://www.sophietucker.com] Read about and assist in the making of a new documentary about the life and times of Sophie Tucker at www.sophietucker.com
*gutenberg author| id=Sophie+Tucker | name=Sophie Tucker
* [http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/electronic-publications/stay-free/6/sophie.htm Sophie Tucker on ibiblio.org]
* [http://womenshistory.miningco.com/library/bio/blbio_tucker_sophie.htm Sophie Tucker on WomensHistory.miningco.com]
* [http://womenshistory.about.com/library/bio/blbio_tucker_sophie.htm An informative biography on About.com]
* [http://www.jwa.org/discover/comedy/tucker.html Jewish Women's Archive. "Jewish Women in Comedy - Sophie Tucker"]
* [http://www.cwhf.org/hall/tucker/tucker.htm A Tucker biography from the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame]
* [http://www.tinfoil.com/cm-9706.htm#e10449 Sophie Tucker sings "Reuben Rag", 1910, on Tinfoil.com] listen to one of her earliest recordings
*Several [http://www.sfmuseum.org/hist2/days.html original recordings] of Sophie Tucker singing, including "Some of These Days." Audio links are at bottom of page. (Courtesy of the Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco.)
* [http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/search.php?query=sophie+tucker&queryType=%40attr+1%3D1 Sophie Tucker cylinder recordings] , from the
Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Projectat the University of California, Santa BarbaraLibrary.
* [http://www.nypl.org/research/manuscripts/music/mustucker.xml Sophie Tucker collection] , the singer's personal collection of musical scores in the [http://www.nypl.org/musicdiv Music Division] of [http://www.nypl.org/research/lpa/lpa.html The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts] .
* [http://catnyp.nypl.org/record=b7809474 Sophie Tucker private recordings collection] , at the New york Public Library for the Performing Arts.
* [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0876008/ Sophie Tucker profile on
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