Sophie Tucker

Sophie Tucker

Infobox musical artist
Name = Sophie Tucker

Img_capt = "Sophie Tucker, 1917"
Img_size = 200
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Background = solo_singer
Birth_name = Sonia Kalish
Alias =
Born = January 13, 1884
Died = February 9, 1966
Origin = Czarist Russia
Instrument = vocalist
Voice_type =
Genre = Jazz
Occupation = Singer
Years_active =
Label =
Associated_acts =
Current_members =
Past_members =
Notable_instruments =

Sophie Tucker (January 13, 1884–February 9, 1966) was a singer and 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 Jewish family in Tsarist Russia. Her family emigrated to the United States when 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.)

Tucker played piano and sang burlesque and vaudeville tunes, 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 American influenced 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 Follies in 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 Agency booked 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 Garden of Ragtime ," a reference to a famous operatic soprano of 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 pianist and songwriter Ted Shapiro as 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 Smith and Ethel Waters to give her lessons.

In 1925, Jack Yellen wrote 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 nostalgia for the early years of 20th century into her show. She was billed as The Last of the Red Hot Mamas, as her hearty sexual appetite 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 neon lights displaying her real name light up in the background of the stage in tribute.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, she made television appearances 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 cancer in 1966 at the age of 82.

She was interred at Emanuel Cemetery in Wethersfield, Connecticut.

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 Midler who 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 Actors in 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."

tage Work

*"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 Beatles included 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 Chicago.

External links

* [] Read about and assist in the making of a new documentary about the life and times of Sophie Tucker at
*gutenberg author| id=Sophie+Tucker | name=Sophie Tucker
* [ Sophie Tucker on]
* [ Sophie Tucker on]
* [ An informative biography on]
* [ Jewish Women's Archive. "Jewish Women in Comedy - Sophie Tucker"]
* [ A Tucker biography from the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame]
* [ Sophie Tucker sings "Reuben Rag", 1910, on] listen to one of her earliest recordings
*Several [ 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.)
* [ Sophie Tucker cylinder recordings] , from the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara Library.
* [ Sophie Tucker collection] , the singer's personal collection of musical scores in the [ Music Division] of [ The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts] .
* [ Sophie Tucker private recordings collection] , at the New york Public Library for the Performing Arts.
* [ Sophie Tucker profile on IMDb]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Sophie Tucker — 1917 Sophie Tucker (* 13. Januar 1884 in Russland; † 9. Februar 1966 in New York City; gebürtig Sophia Kalish) war eine US amerikanische Komödiantin und Sängerin. Sie war eine erfolgreiche Entertainerin in den Vereinigten Staaten im ersten… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Sophie Tucker — noun United States vaudevillian (born in Russia) noted for her flamboyant performances (1884 1966) • Syn: ↑Tucker • Instance Hypernyms: ↑vaudevillian, ↑comedienne …   Useful english dictionary

  • Sophie Tucker — Sophia Abuza …   Eponyms, nicknames, and geographical games

  • TUCKER, SOPHIE — (née Kalish; 1884–1966), vaudeville artiste. Tucker was taken as a baby from Russia to the United States. As a child in Hartford, Connecticut, she worked in her parents kosher restaurant and rooming house, which catered to many show business… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Tucker (surname) — Tucker is a surname.Derivation of nameThe origin of the name is not entirely sure, but since it has a long history as a surname on both the continent as in England and from thereon also in the United States it presumably has the same Saxon roots …   Wikipedia

  • Tucker — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Abi Tucker (* 1973 als Abigail Anne Tucker), australische Schauspielerin und Rocksängerin Albert William Tucker (1905–1995), US amerikanischer Mathematiker Audrey Tucker (* um 1957), australische… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Tucker, Sophie — ▪ American singer original name  Sophie Kalish , also called  Sophie Abuza  born Jan. 13, 1884, Russia died Feb. 9, 1966, New York, N.Y., U.S.       American singer whose 62 year stage career included American burlesque, vaudeville, and nightclub …   Universalium

  • Tucker, Sophie — (1884–1966)    US entertainer. Buxom and sentimental, Sophie Tucker became famous in Yiddish and English vaudeville as the ‘last of the red hot mamas’. Her best known numbers were My Yiddishe Momma and Some of these Days. She devoted her fortune… …   Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament

  • Sophie Heathcote — Nombre real Sophie Heathcote Nacimiento 25 de diciembre de 1972 Melbourne, Australia Fallecimiento 4 de enero de 2006 (36 años) Connecticut, USA Pareja Chris Clarke (2000 2006) (viudo) …   Wikipedia Español

  • Tucker,Sophie — Tucker, Sophie. 1884 1966. Russian born American entertainer known for her flamboyant vaudeville performances and her signature tune, “Some of These Days.” * * * …   Universalium

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