Thursday, September 4, 2014


Despite all his later accomplishments, this career-making hit for Gershwin would remain the biggest hit of his entire life. Written on a train ride with Caesar one New York afternoon as a parody of Stephen Foster's "Old Folks at Home", it was introduced in the Broadway revue Demi-Tasse. The song had little impact in its first show, but not long afterwards Gershwin played it at a party where Al Jolson heard it. Jolson then put it into his show Sinbad, already a success at the Winter Garden Theatre, and recorded it for Columbia Records in January 1920. "After that," said Gershwin, "Swanee penetrated the four corners of the earth.".

The song was charted in 1920 for 18 weeks holding No. 1 position for nine. It sold a million sheet music copies, and an estimated two million records. It became Gershwin's first hit and the biggest-selling song of his career; the money he earned from it allowed him to concentrate on theatre work and films rather than writing further single pop hits. Arthur Schwartz said: "It's ironic that he never again wrote a number equaling the sales of Swanee, which for all its infectiousness, doesn't match the individuality and subtlety of his later works."
Jolson recorded the song several times in his career, and performed it in the movies The Jolson Story (1946), Rhapsody in Blue (1946), and Jolson Sings Again (1949). For the song's performance in The Jolson Story, Jolson, rather than actor Larry Parks, appeared as himself, filmed in long shot. Although usually associated with Jolson,

Swanee" has been recorded by many other singers...
Recorded By: Al Jolson (numerous times)
Judy Garland (numerous times)
Bing Crosby (numerous times)
Buddy Clark (on radio)
Jaye P. Morgan
Rufus Wainwright
The Temptations

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