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Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Al Jolson has a hit

This started off as one of those quick and easy posts on the blog, and very quickly in the course of some brief research has led to a few other points which I find remarkable. So here they all are.

The first was the weird fact that Al Jolson, that odd relic of pre-WWII vaudeville who dabbled in the whole 'blackface' style of 'entertainment', is listed as a co-writer of Phantom Planet's 2005 top 10 UK hit, California. It seems that it bore sufficient similarities to Jolson's 1924 track, California Here I Come, to warrant his inclusion in the credits. Having listened to both now I can't say it would have crossed my mind that Phantom Planet had ripped off old 'blackface' but somebody somewhere must have thought it close enough to not risk a lawsuit from Jolson's estate. Here he is on fine form.

This led me in turn to find out that Jolson and his practice of 'blacking up' was not in fact racist, and as the first openly Jewish popular entertainer in the US he in fact spent much of his career fighting all sorts of prejudice, and his funeral route was indeed lined by many prominent members of the black community in 1950. So I guess he's one book you can't judge by his cover.

Next fact is that he has not one but THREE stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, one each for radio, TV and film. I did not know that was possible. But that's nothing. This guy has FIVE stars!!!!!

And in case the name on the poster doesn't give it away that's Gene Autry who, judging from the amount of Hollywood stars he's amassed, was one of the best entertainers ever. Which is contrary to that picture, which makes him look highly dubious to say the least.

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