Jolson's gravesite
Jolson's gravesite

The news of Jolson's death hit the front pages of newspapers throughout the world. The simplest tribute was in the New York World Telegram, a pair of white gloves outstretched with the caption "the song is ended".

 

One of the most poetic tributes was in Variety : "An institution and an era of showbusiness stopped breathing Monday night in a St Francis hotel suite in San Francisco. A legend now begins to live. Al Jolson, the greatest musical comedy star of his time and perhaps of all time, died at the age of 64.

 

The end came suddennly and dramatically. It came at the height of his career with the cheers of the GIs in Korea fresh in his ears....He had a record to be envied both for his war work and as a star. He hit the top in every medium he tried and was already considering television when he died."

 

George Jessel delivered the eulogy at the funeral on 26th October 1950. On 6th December 1950 General George C Marshall awarded Jolson the Civilian Order of Merit for his work in Korea.

 

On 23rd September 1951 was reinterred at Hillside Memorial Park, a grand monument having been erected, a six pillar marble structure topped by a mosaic dome. Engraved on the inside of the dome "the Sweet Singer of Israel, the Man Raised on High", a 3/4 life sized statue of Jolson on bended knee completed the picture.  

That incredible voice and energy will never die and in the almost 60 years since Al's passing his legacy has been kept alive in many ways.

 

His records have continued to be reussued first on vinyl, cassette, CD and now available in Internet downloads.

 

His films continue to be shown, just last year Warner Brothers released an extras laden DVD of The Jazz Singer to celebrate its 80th anniversary and lets hope for many more DVD releases in future.

 

In 2006 the International Al Jolson Society were finally successful in having a street in New York city named Al Jolson Way.

 

To sum up the influence of Al Jolson is incredibly difficult because he was the most influential figure in showbusiness history. He is still known today but many don't realise just how important he was : there is a little bit of Jolson in every live entertainer. That desire to please an audience, that love affair. That dominated Jolson's view of the world. Somebody once asked Ralph Reader who appeared with Al in Big Boy why Jolson had to give so much for audience. Reader said : "It wasn't that he wanted to give so much it was just he had to."