Tucker, Sophie Edit

Summary

Agent Type
Person

Dates

  • 1884-1966 (Existence)

Name Forms

  • Tucker, Sophie

Notes

  • Biography/Historical Note

    Singer, actress, and comedian Sophie Tucker, often called the “Last of the Red Hot Mamas,” was born in Russia in 1886 as Sonya Kalish. She and her family immigrated to the United States soon after her birth, and changed their name to Abuza. The family then moved to Connecticut and opened a kosher restaurant, where Tucker would first perform for tips. At 17 she married Louis Tuck, whom she would leave shortly after the birth of their son. This was the first of three marriages that would end in divorce for Tucker. Following her divorce, she left her son Albert in the care of her family and moved to New York City seeking a career as an entertainer—it was at this point that she added the “-er” to her married name.  She began her career as a vaudeville singer in blackface, but became a larger hit once she abandoned this style. Tucker never lost vaudeville influences, however, and continued performing songs in the same risqué manner of that time, frequently using bawdy lyrics or double entendres, while incorporating the new style, jazz, into her music. Tucker also expanded her career beyond music: she appeared in films; was frequently a television personality, appearing on the popular variety and talk shows of her day; wrote an autobiography; and even hosted her own radio show. In her later years, she supported many charities and organizations, including the founding of Brandeis University, through donating to support the library and funding a chaired professorship in her name in the theater department. Sophie Tucker died in 1966 in New York City, following a career in which she challenged ideas of ethnicity and female sexuality, and became one of the first stars of the twentieth century.