Sophie Tucker – Last of the Red Hot Mommas

By | Jan 13, 2017

Sophie Tucker, billed later in her career as the Last of the Red Hot Mommas, was born Sophie Kalish in Russia as her parents were immigrating to the United States on January 13, 1884. When the family arrived in America her father decided to adopt the name Abuza.

One could say she was destined to become an entertainer. While working at the diner her parents owned and operated, she sang songs as she waited tables. This earned her applause and tips.

After separating from her first husband, Louis Tuck, she found herself on the vaudeville stage. She performed songs wearing blackface and with a southern accent until one day when her suitcase arrived late she went on stage declaring to the audience, “You all can see I’m a white girl. Well, I’ll tell you something more: I’m not Southern. I’m a Jewish girl and I just learned this Southern accent doing a blackface act for two years. And now, Mr. Leader, please play my song.”

Still she enjoyed singing songs that had African-American roots. Many of these songs, including her signature song Some of These Days written by Shelton Brooks, which she purchased exclusive rights to sing.

Tucker was proud of her Jewish heritage and one of Tucker’s best know songs is My Yiddish Momme written for her in 1925 by Jack Yellen. The song has both Yiddish and English verses. At first she sang this in concert only when she felt the audience understood Yiddish, but later she would include it in her act. When Adolf Hitler came into power in Germany he ordered all copies of the song destroyed.

Tucker never retired from entertainment. She performed in the movies, on the radio and on television as well as on the stage during her long career. She died at the age of 82 on February 9, 1966, in New York City, just a few weeks after her last performance.


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