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Sophie Tucker

“The Last of the Red-Hot Mamas,” Sophie Tucker defied conventions about gender, age, weight, and ethnicity with her saucy comic banter and music. Tucker ran away to New York to sing, performing in cafes and beer gardens before breaking into vaudeville. Forced to perform in blackface for two years, she finally came out as white and Jewish to a shocked audience. In 1910, she first sang what became her signature song, “Some of These Days.” That same year, she was hauled offstage and tried for obscenity, but the judge threw out the case. For the next several weeks, her shows were sold out, with lines around the block. She toured America and Europe throughout the 1920s and ‘30s, delighting audiences in Vienna and Berlin with “My Yiddishe Momme,” a song later banned by Hitler. In 1945, she created the Sophie Tucker Foundation, which supported various actors’ guilds, hospitals, synagogues, and Israeli youth villages. While Tucker performed in a number of movies, she preferred the stage, performing on Broadway and in London. When she died in 1966, she had two years of engagements planned. Striking teamsters’ union hearse drivers called off their picket to serve at her funeral.

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I saw the Sophie Tucker documentary last week at a wonderful theatre in Kew Gardens, NY and feel that it is a must see for anyone who is in or on the periphery of the performing arts because Ms Tucker defied categorization and crossed all lines artistically and conventionally. One has to respect her as an artist, as a woman proud of her Jewish heritage and as a humanitarian who stood up against racism when there were protests against Ms Josephine Baker appearing at a venue in the South Ms Tucker was to headline afterwards. A true legend.

Singer and comedian Sophie Tucker.
Courtesy of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, OH
Date of Birth
Birthplace

Ukraine

Date of Death

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Sophie Tucker." (Viewed on June 24, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/tucker-sophie>.

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