Al Jolson


Al Jolson was born Asa Yoelson on 26 May, 1886, in Srendnik, in Lithuania (then part of the Russian Empire). He moved to the USA in 1894. He became a professional entertainer in 1902 and went on to become  a singer, comedian and actor. In his heyday, he was dubbed The World's Greatest Entertainer.

His performing style was brash and extroverted, and he popularised a large number of songs that benefited from his "shamelessly sentimental, melodramatic approach". Here's a good potted biography.

Al Jolson recorded his version of Are You Lonesome Tonight? on 28 April 1950. It was first released on Decca 27043.

Jolson died on 23 October, 1950.

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Here's an excerpt from Al Jolson's 1950 recording of Are You Lonesome Tonight? I've left off the syrupy 1940s-style intro and Jolson's overly dramatic narration ("shamelessly sentimental [and] dramatic" fits nicely). You can hear the whole thing at this page.

© David Neale 2020