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May 26, 2011 / jmeuropeana

Al Jolson and The Jazz Singer

On the26th of May –

In 1886 American singer and composer Al Jolson is born in Lithuania. He moves with his parents to the States at age five. His real name is Asa Yoelson. He was famous as the main character of the Black and White Minstrel Show – a form of variety theatre that would now not be tolerated as being too culturally insensitive. In the show Jolson and his (all white) colleagues painted their faces black and pretended to be black people. At the time blacks were not allowed on the stage, either singing or dancing, or even in the audience. The minstrel show variety act started out in the 1830s and lasted until the early 1900s. Al Jolson took the blackface tradition to the white screen and as such has moved it in the realm of documented history. His ‘The Jazz Singer‘ was the first ‘feature-length motion picture with synchronized dialogue sequences’, i.e., the first talking picture.

His greatest hits include Sonny Boy, Swanee and My Mammy.
Sonny Boy

Swanee

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