Al Jolson was born Asa Yoelson on May 26, 1886, in Srednike, Russia. His family moved to the United States when he was 7, and Jolson and his three older siblings were raised in Washington, D.C. When he was little Jolson began singing and dancingon the streets for money. Because of the frustrating relationship that Jolson had with his father, him and his siblings changed their last names to Jolson and moved to New York City, soon beginning an act together. A few years later, he began performing his own act in San Francisco, California.
Jolson's most famous performance came in the 1927 film The Jazz Singer, the first feature in history to include a synchronized speech. Though he was middle-aged and not the most talented actor, Jolson's singing made him a great movie star. He went on to appear in films such as The Singing Fool and Swanee River, and provided the voiceover for a movie based on his life entitled The Jolson Story.
Jolson married four times and had three adopted children. He was very supportive of American troops, performing for soldiers in World War II and the Korean War. He died of a heart attack in San Francisco on October 23, 1950. His gravesite in Los Angeles' Hillside Memorial Park features a large monument to his career, a life-sized statue of Jolson genuflecting as if he just finished a performance.
"You think that's noise? You ain't heard nuttin' yet." ~ Al Jolson