Sunday, June 20, 2010

Worth 1,000 Words: AL JOLSON, fishing for love in AVALON


By Steve Crum

While he may not have been the world's greatest angler, AL JOLSON was always The World's Greatest Entertainer. Here he mugs it, as usual, oddly hatted as a sailor while fishing in Avalon Bay at Catalina Island. The photo was probably taken during the mid-1930's. Jolie frequented Catalina often, and (the story goes) discovered future songwriter and friend BUDDY DeSYLVA there as DeSylva dived for coins tourists would throw from visiting ships. Fact or fiction, the legend persists. But it is true that Buddy DeSylva eventually became a successful composer of popular songs, a movie producer, and co-founder of Capitol Records. [from Steve Crum's showbiz memorabilia collection]
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AVALON, written by DeSylva, Vincent Rose and Al Jolson, was published in 1920, and became a huge hit for Jolson. (Jolson's actual input into the song's composition is questionable. His name was often added--on dozens of songs--in exchange for his plugging the tune in one of his shows.) Jolson sang it in two of his Broadway extravaganzas, Sinbad and Bombo, as well as in The Jolson Story (1946). Avalon became a popular standard for many, particularly Benny Goodman. Interestingly, the publishers of Avalon were successfully sued in 1921 for plagiarism, charged that the melody was lifted from Puccini's aria E lucevan le stelle from the opera Tosca. The Puccini folks were awarded $25,000 along with all subsequent royalties. This did not deter Jolson, Goodman, and many others from continuing to perform the memorable song.
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The lyrics to AVALON:
EV'RY MORNING MEM'RIES STRAY
ACROSS THE SEA WHERE FLYING FISHES PLAY
AND AS THE NIGHT IS FALLING
I FIND THAT I'M RECALLING
THAT BLISSFUL ALL ENTHRALLING DAY

JUST BE-FORE I SAILED AWAY
SHE SAID THE WORD I LONGED TO HEAR HER SAY,
I TENDERLY CARESSED HER
CLOSE TO MY HEART I PRESSED HER
UPON THAT GOLDEN YESTERDAY

I FOUND MY LOVE IN AVALON
BESIDE THE BAY
I LEFT MY LOVE IN AVALON AND SAILED AWAY
I DREAM OF HER AND AVALON
FROM DUSK 'TIL DAWN
AND SO I THINK I'LL TRAVEL ON
TO AVALON

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Listen to Jolson singing the melodic AVALON: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8mhhTH1pHc

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